Global death toll in Covid-19 pandemic doubles in a week to cross 100,000

WHO warns that relaxing control measures too soon could lead to deadly resurgence

 Health workers carry a patient to an ambulance on April 11, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Health workers carry a patient to an ambulance on April 11, 2020, in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.PHOTO: AFP

The global death toll from Covid-19 has doubled in just under a week to cross the 100,000 mark amid World Health Organisation (WHO) warnings that a premature lifting of restrictions could lead to a fatal resurgence of the virus.

The United States reported a new world high of over 2,000 deaths in a day on Friday, while there were 987 fatalities in France and 980 in Britain.

New Zealand, which is midway through a four-week lockdown that has dramatically slowed the virus' spread, reported two new deaths, taking its total deaths to four. Two more fatalities in Australia took its total deaths to 56.

More than 1.7 million confirmed cases of the virus have been recorded globally, a month after the WHO declared the outbreak a pandemic.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that while the spread had slowed in the past week in some of the hardest-hit nations in Europe, such as Spain, Italy, Germany and France, other nations had seen an alarming acceleration in cases.

"I know some countries are already planning the transition out of stay-at-home restrictions. WHO wants to see restrictions lifted as much as anyone," he said at a virtual press conference on Friday.

"At the same time, lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence. The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly."

Slowing infection rates and fewer deaths in some countries in Europe, which the WHO called the epicentre of the pandemic in the middle of last month, have prompted some countries to explore rolling back some of their strictest measures.

Spain, which recorded its lowest toll in 19 days with 510 deaths yesterday, will let some non-essential workers return to work tomorrow.

But it and other countries urged people to stay home over the Easter holiday weekend.

Spain, Italy and parts of Britain set up roadblocks on some main routes and highway exits to stop people from leaving town for the long weekend, according to reports. Italy also said on Friday that it would extend its lockdown to May 3.

India is also set to extend its nationwide lockdown, which would have expired this Tuesday, until the end of the month, although a formal announcement has not been made.

Countries in Asia and elsewhere have expanded restrictions.

 
 
 
 

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe urged people to avoid night spots such as bars and restaurants, as the authority to make that request of residents was extended to governors in all 47 prefectures in the country.

South Korea announced plans to ask people who violate quarantine orders to wear tracking wristbands, after many were found to have slipped out by leaving smartphones installed with tracking apps at home.

Singapore closed all beaches to the public yesterday and said it would soon be compulsory for people to wear masks on public transport, even after circuit breaker measures to slow the virus' spread in the community ended.

Stiffer penalties will be imposed from today for those caught gathering in public, with first-time offenders getting an immediate $300 fine instead of a warning.

Maids in Singapore must also remain at home during their day off. While they can still run essential errands, they must return home immediately after.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 12, 2020, with the headline 'Global death toll in pandemic doubles in a week to cross 100,000'. Subscribe