Nepal | September 27, 2020

Virus pandemic tightens grip; 10,000 dead worldwide

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PARIS: The US warned Americans to avoid all international travel and told citizens abroad to return now or face an “indefinite” absence, and California’s governor asked all 40 million residents to stay home, to try to slow a pandemic toll that on Friday surpassed 10,000 people worldwide.

Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began, offered a ray of hope with no new infections reported for a second day in a row and only 39 cases reported nationwide — all of them brought from the outside, the government said.

But the effects of a global economy grinding to a halt were beginning to show, from millions of unsold flowers rotting in piles in Kenya to the slow emptying of the world’s skies. The UN chief warned of a looming global recession “perhaps of record dimensions.”

In a measure of how the fortunes of East and West have shifted, a Chinese Red Cross official heading an aid delegation to Milan castigated Italians for failing to take their national lockdown seriously. Sun Shuopeng said he was shocked to see so many people walking around, using public transportation and eating out in hotels.

“Right now we need to stop all economic activity, and we need to stop the mobility of people,” he said. “All people should be staying at home in quarantine.”

China also sent medical equipment to the Czech capital, Prague, on Friday.

Globally, governments are trying to balance the need to lock down residents with the need to keep food, medicine and other essentials flowing. In Britain, the category of vital workers includes doctors, nurses and paramedics — and also vicars, truckers, garbage collectors and journalists.

French President Emmanuel Macron urged employees to keep working in supermarkets, production sites and other necessary businesses amid stringent restrictions of movement.

“We need to keep the country running,” Macron said.

Worldwide, the death toll from COVID-19 passed 10,000 and infections exceeded 244,000, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally. Italy, with 60 million citizens, has recorded 3,405 deaths, exceeding the 3,248 in China, a country with a population over 20 times larger.

Though the illness is mild in most people, the elderly are particularly susceptible to serious symptoms. Italy has the world’s second-oldest population, and the vast majority of its dead — 87% — were over 70.

Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, a virologist at Germany’s Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, offered another reason for Italy’s high death rate: “That’s what happens when the health system collapses.”

More than 86,000 people have recovered, mostly in China, but the pace is much slower than the spread of the virus. Recovery takes two weeks or so for mild cases but can be up to six weeks for those that turn serious, according to the World Health Organization.

Italy surpassed China in deaths from the outbreak, and Iran’s official toll was rising quickly as well amid fears it is underreporting the scale of the pandemic. Iran accused the United States of helping spread the virus by retaining sanctions that prevent it importing desperately needed medicine and medical equipment.

“While the US is trying to curb the virus internally, it is helping the spread of the virus externally,” Iran’s UN mission said in a statement.

Nations are imposing ever-stricter border controls and lockdowns to keep people at home and keep away outsiders, hoping to slow the spread of the virus while preparing for an onslaught of sick patients.

Italy was the first to act in Europe, and — despite the criticism from the Chinese official — other leaders held up Italians as an example to encourage their own citizens to endure far-reaching restrictions on public life. Austria and Germany warned that they would continue at least through Easter.

 


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