Global COVID-19 deaths top 60,000, number of cases hit 1.17 million

Medical staff load a patient infected with novel coronavirus, Covid-19, into a military A400M plane for transportation from Orly airport, south of the capital, to a hospital outside of the Paris region, on April 4, 2020. (AFP / BERTRAND GUAY)
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Updated 05 April 2020

Global COVID-19 deaths top 60,000, number of cases hit 1.17 million

  • Italy has the most number of deaths at more than 14,500
  • US has the most number of cases at more than 300,000

WASHINGTON: The number of coronavirus deaths worldwide totaled 63,437 on Saturday, with Europe accounting for over 45,000, or two-thirds of the total.

There are now more than 1.17 million confirmed coronavirus cases around the world since the virus emerged in China late last year.

Topping the most number of COVID-19 cases was the United States, which reported more than 300,000 confirmed cases and more than 8,300 deaths.

Italy, which continues to have the most number of deaths at more than 14,500, has the second number of cases at more than 119,000.

Spain is second in the most number of deaths at more than 11,700 and is third in number of cases.

Billions of people are living under some form on lockdown.

Roughly half the planet is confined at home with schools and businesses closed, at huge cost to the global economy.

China came to a standstill on Saturday to mourn those killed in the outbreak that started in the city of Wuhan before sweeping the globe.

Across the nation, cars, trains and ships sounded their horns, and air-raid sirens wailed.

Sense of relief

Despite being on top of the list in terms of deaths, Italy and Spain reveled at some encouraging news on Saturday.

Italy cheered after seeing its number of intensive care cases for coronavirus drop for the first time — from 4,068 on Friday to 3,994 on Saturday.

Even some of the most cautious Italian health officials seized on the figures as evidence that the tide may be turning in the deadliest disaster the country has faced since World War II.

“This is a very important data point,” said civil protection service chief Angelo Borrelli, adding that it “allows our hospitals to breathe.”

The daily rise in new infections across Italy has also slowed.

The country reported 681 new deaths on Saturday, down from a peak of almost 1,000 just over a week ago.

Spain, which is under a near-total lockdown, also saw a second successive daily fall in coronavirus-related deaths with 809 fatalities.

Although the number of new cases also slowed, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced an extension of the country’s lockdown until April 25.

At a field hospital in Madrid set up at a conference center, staff applauded whenever a patient was healthy enough to be discharged.

One of them was 59-year-old builder Eduardo Lopez who gave a “10/10” rating to the staff who cared for him “with tenderness and a great dose of humanity.”

France on Saturday reported 441 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, lower than the record number of 588 recorded the previous day.

This brought the total number of deaths in France to 7,560 since the epidemic began, top health official Jerome Salomon said.

New daily high

Britain’s overall death toll climbed to more than 4,300 out of nearly 42,000 cases with a five-year-old among the fatalities.

Queen Elizabeth II is to make a rare special address to Britain and Commonwealth nations on Sunday during which she will urge people to rise to the challenge posed by the coronavirus outbreak.

New York state, the US outbreak’s epicenter, saw a record 630 deaths in a single day and Governor Andrew Cuomo warned the worst was yet to come. The state has recorded a total of 3,565 deaths.

Cuomo cautioned that already strained hospitals were not prepared.

“Part of me would like to be at the apex and just, ‘let’s do it.’ But there’s part of me that says it’s good that we’re not at the apex because we’re not yet ready,” he said.

New York City appealed for licensed medical personnel to volunteer their services.

“Anyone who’s not already in this fight, we need you,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said.

US President Trump said 1,000 military personnel, mostly doctors and nurses, would be deployed to New York City to “assist where they’re needed the most.”

“That’s the hottest of all the hot spots,” he said.

Trump also said he had asked Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to expedite shipments of hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug which the US leader has been touting as a treatment for coronavirus although clinical trials are still underway.

“I may take it,” Trump said. “I’ll have to ask my doctors about that.”

'Masks could give false sense of security'

Several Western countries including the US, Germany and France have in recent days encouraged the use of masks in public despite earlier saying that only carers needed to cover their faces.

The U-turn has angered and confused some citizens, and spurred a flurry of online tutorials for DIY masks.

It comes after some studies suggested the new coronavirus can be spread through speaking and breathing, not just coughing and sneezing. US authorities said wearing a simple homemade mask or scarf could help stem rocketing infection rates.

The World Health Organization is reviewing its guidance but has said it worries that masks could give “a false sense of security,” leading people to be more casual about hand washing and social distancing.


Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

Updated 35 min 42 sec ago

Muslims in Italy follow rules while celebrating Eid Al-Fitr

  • Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures

ROME: Italy’s Muslims gathered in parks and public squares to celebrate the end of Ramadan, as many of the country’s mosques remained shut because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Islamic places of worship have been going slow on welcoming back congregations, despite an easing of a months-long lockdown, in order to guarantee social distancing and other preventive steps required under an agreement between Muslim communities and the government.

Mosques and prayer rooms will have to respect the same strict rules which have been imposed on Catholic churches. Halls will have to be sanitized before and after every prayer and a maximum of 200 people will be allowed, even in the biggest places of worship. For outdoor prayers a limit of 1,000 people has been set and each worshipper must be spaced at least one meter apart from the next. Those with a temperature above 37.5 degrees cannot enter.

Italian media reported that Muslims gathered to perform Eid prayers in compliance with anti-coronavirus measures.

“Happy Eid Al-Fitr to all Muslims in Italy as they have two reasons to celebrate,” Yassine Lafram, president of the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy (UCOII), said in a message. 

“This is not the only festivity closing the holy month of Ramadan, it matters even more to us all this year in Italy as it finally marks the return of our faithful to the mosque after several months of lockdown due to coronavirus. The Muslim faithful all over Italy now pray to God to accept the fasts, prayers and every good deed carried out during this holy  month and bring peace and blessing to our homes, so that phase two in the fight against COVID-19 in Italy will start in the best way possible.”

Many Muslims celebrated Eid at home with immediate family members. Those who decided to meet and pray together outside their households did it while “strictly respecting” health protocols and social distancing to avoid risk of infection, UCOII said. The organization asked people to display the same “utmost prudence and responsibility” when entering every place of worship from now on.

At Milan’s Al-Wahid Mosque Imam Yahya Sergio Pallavicini set up spacing for 140 new prayer mats. There are different entry and exit points for men and women, along with dedicated courtyards. 

Sanitization is carried out regularly while detergents, disinfecting gel and personal protective equipment are being offered by city authorities. “We pray for the inner and outer health of believers and Italian people,” Pallavicini said at the start of Eid prayers.

Almost 200 people gathered to pray in Rome’s Piazza Vittorio Emanuele. Muslims arranged their prayer mats and moved about in line with social distancing rules. Posters in Italian and Arabic told people that hugging was not allowed. 

“Even if we are in an outside space, nobody has to get too close,” the imam told his flock before prayers commenced. “It is mandatory and for the sake of everyone’s health.” There were children in the congregation too, and everyone wore face masks.

“I am so happy that I am finally meeting my friends for this prayer, but we have to stay apart,” 13-year-old Samir told Arab News. “We will have time to embrace, to play together in the future, when the virus will be gone.” He said he had missed going to his mosque, near Furio Camillo station, during the lockdown. 

“I prayed with my father, of course we were following prayers on YouTube and on Facebook. But it was not the same. Here I really feel part of a group sharing a faith. And it is great to be together again,” he added.

In Piazza Re di Roma, in the southern part of the city center, 250 Muslims gathered to pray. “We just prayed together, and stayed in the square for an hour only,” 31-year-old Latif told Arab News. “The celebration will be with our families later on.”

An outdoor celebration took place in the Sicilian capital Palermo with Mayor Leoluca Orlando also joining in. “We are happy for this celebration which marks another sign of the return to normality of our communities,” he told Arab News. “Being able to pray together is one of the most important needs for a religion as that improves the sense of community. Now we can do it again together: and that’s a great sign not only for the Muslim community but for the entire population of Palermo.”