U.S. could become virus epicentre: WHO

Looming crisis: U.S. President Donald Trump addressing the media in Washington.  

The World Health Organisation said on Tuesday that the U.S. could become the global epicentre of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Britain joined the ranks of countries in lockdown to try to hold back the virus, and data showed business activity collapsing from Australia and Japan and Western Europe at a record pace in March, with the U.S. showing expected to be just as dire.

But amid the gathering gloom, the Chinese province of Hubei, where the virus was first identified in December, said it would lift travel restrictions on people leaving the region as the epidemic eases there.

Also read: The race to find a cure for COVID-19

Confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world exceeded 3,77,000 across 194 countries and territories as of early Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally, more than 16,500 of them fatal.

‘Very large acceleration’

WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said there had been a “very large acceleration” in infections in the U.S.

Over the previous 24 hours, 85% of new cases were in Europe and the U.S., and of those, 40% were in the U.S. As of Monday, the virus had infected more than 42,000 people there, killing at least 559.

Asked whether the U.S. could become the new epicentre, Ms. Harris said: “We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the U.S. So it does have that potential.”

Some U.S. state and local officials have decried a lack of coordinated federal action, saying that having localities act on their own has put them in competition for supplies.

Also read: COVID-19 and a city’s anatomy

President Donald Trump said on Monday he was considering how to restart business life when a 15-day shutdown ends next week.

“America will again and soon be open for business,” Mr. Trump told a White House news conference on Monday. “We are not going to let it turn into a long-lasting financial problem.”

“We can’t have the cure be worse than the problem,” Mr. Trump said. “We have to open our country because that causes problems that, in my opinion, could be far bigger problems.”

Of the top 10 countries by case numbers, Italy has reported the highest fatality rate, at around 10%, which at least partly reflects its older population. The fatality rate globally is around 4.3%, though national figures can vary widely according to how much testing is done.

Britain on Tuesday began curbs on movement without precedent in peacetime after PM Boris Johnson ordered everyone to stay at home.

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Printable version | Apr 18, 2021 12:19:37 AM |

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