Europe passes China in confirmed coronavirus cases, deaths

A cyclist rides in the empty streets of the Champs Elysees in Paris on March 18, 2020, following a lockdown in France due to the coronavirus pandemic. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

LONDON (BLOOMBERG) - Europe has surpassed China in its number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths from the disease, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Europe's total of more than 85,000 infections exceeds China's 80,900. Europe has also reported just under 4,000 deaths from Covid-19, compared with about 3,200 in China. Italy's death count alone is 2,978.

The rapid spread of the the virus in Europe, as well as in the US, has caught many by surprise. Officials are enacting social-distancing rules and travel blockages that seemed unthinkable a month ago, but are the types of measures that helped China and other Asian countries control the outbreak.

GENERATIONAL CHALLENGE

German Chancellor Angela Merkel used a rare television address on Wednesday evening (March 18) to urge people to abide by restrictions, calling the pandemic the country's greatest challenge since World War II.

In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that schools in England will shut, following similar calls from administrators in Scotland and Wales.

The coronavirus is believed to have emerged in December in a market in Wuhan, China.

Now, Europe and US officials are hoping that increased testing and isolating people can slow the disease's spread, keeping healthcare systems from being overwhelmed and giving researchers time to find treatments and ultimately develop a vaccine.

Actual numbers of cases are probably significantly higher than these tallies, which reflect only patients whose infections have been confirmed by testing.

In the UK, for example, health authorities said earlier this week that there may be as many as 55,000 cases, even though the official register shows about 2,600.

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