Coronavirus: Global cases pass 600,000 with over 28,000 dead

28 March 2020, 12:05

Clients wearing masks to help protect themselves from the coronavirus wait to use ATM machines outside a closed bank in Beirut
Clients wearing masks to help protect themselves from the coronavirus wait to use ATM machines outside a closed bank in Beirut. Picture: PA

By Megan White

The number of confirmed Covid-19 cases worldwide has surged beyond 600,000 as new cases continue to soar in Europe and the United States.

Over 28,000 people have died after contracting coronavirus, with six countries having had more than 1,700 deaths – the US, Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France.

The latest landmark came only two days after the world passed half a million infections, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, showing that much work remains to be done to slow the spread of the virus.

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Lockdowns of varying severity have been introduced across Europe, nearly emptying streets in normally bustling cities, including Paris where drone photos showed the city's landmarks eerily deserted.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff Helge Braun said that Germany, where authorities closed non-essential shops and banned gatherings of more than two in public, will not relax its restrictions before April 20.

Spain, where stay-at-home restrictions have been in place for nearly two weeks, reported 832 more deaths on Saturday, its highest daily total yet, bringing its total to 5,690.

Another 8,000 confirmed infections pushed that count above 72,000.

Doctors, nurses and ambulance drivers in its worst-hit regions are falling ill at an alarming rate and working non-stop.

More than 9,000 health workers in the country have been infected.

"We are completely overwhelmed," said ambulance medic Pablo Rojo, at Barcelona's Dos de Maig hospital.

"Seven or eight (patients transported today) and all with Covid-19. ... And the average age is decreasing. They're not 80 years old anymore, they are now 30 and 40 years old."

As the epicentre has shifted westward, the situation has calmed in China, where some restrictions on people's lives have now been lifted.

Six subway lines restored limited service in Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December, after the city had its official coronavirus risk evaluation downgraded from high to medium on Friday.

Five districts of the city of 11 million people had other restrictions on travel loosened after their risk factor was downgraded to low.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as a fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks.

But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and lead to death.

More than 130,000 people have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins' tally.

While New York remained the worst-hit city in the US, Americans braced for worsening conditions elsewhere, with worrying infection numbers being reported in New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit.

In New York, where there are more than 44,000 cases statewide, the number of people in hospital with Covid-19 passed 6,000 on Friday, double what it had been three days earlier.

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