Coronavirus pandemic

Infection cases cross 1m globally as death toll hits 54k

A Tunisian Police P-Guard robot checking the exit permit of a citizen while calling on residents to respect a quarantine order, in Tunis this week. PHOTO: EPA-EFE
A Tunisian Police P-Guard robot checking the exit permit of a citizen while calling on residents to respect a quarantine order, in Tunis this week. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

More than 3.9b people - over half the world's population - are being asked to stay at home

BEIJING/NEW YORK • Global cases of the new coronavirus hit 1.03 million yesterday evening, with more than 54,000 fatalities, after the number of confirmed infections surged past the million-mark the previous day on the back of rapid contagion in the United States and western Europe

There were 1,298 new deaths globally as of press time yesterday. A day earlier, there were 6,095 new deaths - nearly double the number of fatalities that had occurred in China, where the Covid-19 disease originated.

In a list based on officially-reported data, Italy led with 13,915 deaths, followed by Spain with 10,935. But the United States was becoming the new epicentre, with 245,442 cases - by far the most of any nation - and 6,098 deaths.

More than 3.9 billion people, or half of the world's population, are now being called on to remain in their homes to combat Covid-19, according to a tally on Thursday. The measures - which include compulsory or recommended confinement, curfews and quarantines - are in place in more than 90 countries and territories.

The introduction of a curfew in Thailand, which took effect yesterday, pushed the number past half of the global population of 7.8 billion.

Outside the West, China's epidemic has stabilised after draconian containment measures and the country is planning to mourn its "martyrs" today with a three-minute silence.

The outbreak in badly-hit Iran still raged while it sparred with traditional foe the United States on the geopolitical stage.

With Europe accounting for more than half of cases around the world, France and Britain were also struggling to prop up their health services which are under huge strain.

Though the official figures were shocking enough, health experts and even some governments acknowledge they do not capture the full spread of the virus. It often goes undetected in people with minor symptoms or none at all.

With airlines largely grounded, businesses closed, layoffs mounting and millions of people at home under lockdowns, the economic fallout was shaping into worse than the 2008 financial crisis.

Rather, comparisons were being drawn with such traumatic periods as World War II or the 1930s Great Depression.

Spain and Italy, while counting their daily dead, prayed the tolls were plateauing as data at least showed a slowdown in daily increases.

Criticised for unpreparedness, Britain promised a tenfold increase in testing. But Prime Minister Boris Johnson's continued self-isolation, after testing positive for the virus, was a reminder of the risk.

While prosperous Western nations are reeling, there is concern about potentially far worse impact in nations already struggling with poverty, insecurity and weak health systems.

In India, many poor labourers are desperate after losing jobs in a three-week lockdown ordered by Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

New Google data from 131 counties shows the extraordinary decline in human movement. For example, in Italy, visits to retail and recreation locations, including restaurants and cinemas, plunged 94 per cent in March.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 04, 2020, with the headline 'Infection cases cross 1m globally as death toll hits 54k'. Print Edition | Subscribe