US could overtake Europe as coronavirus epicenter: WHO

Cars wait in line for a COVID-19 drive-thru test site for medical personnel and first responders operated by the Illinois National Guard on Tuesday, March 24, 2020 in Chicago. (AP)
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Updated 24 March 2020

US could overtake Europe as coronavirus epicenter: WHO

  • The COVID-19 outbreak in the United States has the potential to exceed that in Europe
  • The pandemic began in China in December but the epicenter has since shifted from Asia to Europe

GENEVA: The COVID-19 outbreak in the United States has the potential to exceed that in Europe, the World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday as the number of reported US cases surges.
The pandemic began in China in December but the epicenter has since shifted from Asia to Europe.
WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris told reporters during a virtual press conference that 85 percent of the new cases reported to the global body overnight had come from Europe and the United States, now the two “main drivers of the outbreak.”
The latest WHO coronavirus daily situation report — published late Monday, before the overnight figures — showed that Europe reported 20,131 new cases in the preceding 24 hours, while the United States reported 16,354, more than doubling its total caseload.
Asked whether the United States could overtake Europe as the epicenter of COVID-19, Harris said: “We are now seeing a very large acceleration in the number of cases from the US, so it does have that potential.
“We cannot say that that is the case yet but it does have that potential.
“They have a very large outbreak and an outbreak increasing in intensity.”
The WHO’s Monday daily update showed European countries with 171,424 total infections and 8,743 deaths (up 1,318), while the United States reported a total of 31,573 infections and 402 fatalities (up 201).
Harris said that due to the incubation period, the rise in case numbers reflected a surge in transmissions taking place up to five days prior.
“Each individual infecting two to three other people takes about three to five days, so we’re seeing what happened three or four days ago, or five days ago in many countries,” Harris explained.
The numbers show that in the United States, “a week ago there was a lot of transmission.”
Despite the surging case numbers, Harris said there were also some “very big positives” emerging from America.
“Testing is being ramped up; there are more efforts to isolate, care for every confirmed case and trace and quarantine people,” she said.
“And also a very, very strong community mobilization. There are some extremely heartwarming and fantastic stories coming out of the US about what people are doing for each other.”
According to an AFP tally compiled at 1100 GMT Tuesday from official sources, COVID-19 has now infected more than 386,000 people worldwide, and killed nearly 17,000 of them since the outbreak began.

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Pakistan couple arrested for allegedly murdering seven-year-old maid

Updated 20 min 12 sec ago

Pakistan couple arrested for allegedly murdering seven-year-old maid

  • Hassan Siddiqui and his wife employed Zohra Bibi at their home in a middle-class suburb of Rawalpindi
  • Some 8.5 million people — including many children — are employed as domestic workers in Pakistan

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan: A Pakistan couple have been arrested for allegedly murdering their seven-year-old maid after she was blamed for letting a pet bird escape, police said, the latest case of violence against child domestic workers in the country.
Hassan Siddiqui and his wife employed Zohra Bibi at their home in a middle-class suburb of Rawalpindi, near the capital Islamabad, to care for their son of a similar same age.
“The poor girl was subjected to torture by Siddiqui and his wife who accused her of freeing one of the four pet Macao parrots,” investigating officer Mukhtar Ahmad said on Thursday.
“Siddiqui kicked her in the lower abdomen which proved fatal.”
Some 8.5 million people — including many children — are employed as domestic workers in Pakistan, according to the International Labour Organization.
Theoretically it is illegal to employ anyone under the age of 15, but it remains common practice.
Zohra was taken to hospital by the couple on Sunday, but died the following day. The incident was reported to the police by staff at the hospital.
The young girl’s body was handed over to her parents, who live in Muzaffargarh, near the city of Multan, more than 500 kilometers away from where she was working.
Human rights minister Shireen Mazari confirmed the arrests in a tweet and said the ministry was in touch with police.
“Violence and physical torture against children will not be tolerated and all those involved in such incidents will be dealt with,” city police chief Muhammad Ahsan Younus added.
Domestic workers frequently face exploitation, violence and sexual abuse, with Pakistan’s patriarchal and rigid social-class structure leaving them without a voice.
Children are particularly vulnerable, and Bibi’s case is the latest in a growing number of incidents involving minors.
In December 2018, the rising number of abuse cases led the provincial legislature in Punjab to set regulations for the employment of domestic workers, which theoretically grants them rights such as sick leave and holidays.