Global coronavirus death toll passes 300,000 with more than 4.4 million infected

14 May 2020, 20:04

Morgue workers in Istanbul removing the coffin of a woman who died with coronavirus
Morgue workers in Istanbul removing the coffin of a woman who died with coronavirus. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

More than 300,000 people across the world have now died after testing positive for coronavirus, while more than 4.4 million have been infected.

The grim milestone was passed at around 6pm on Thursday evening, with the US easily remaining the epicentre of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Almost 85,000 deaths have been recorded in the States, which is almost as high as the next three worst-hit countries combined - the UK, Italy and Spain - according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University in America.

Meanwhile, 1.4 million people in the US have so far contracted the virus, with New York being the state hit hardest following 27,567 deaths - a figure that would put it third-highest in the world if America was broken up into individual states.

Britain remains at the heart of Europe's outbreak, experiencing a greater number of deaths than any other country on the continent and second to only Russia in the number of confirmed cases.

The eastern European nation has now seen 252,245 people test positive for the disease, but the country's official figures show only 2,305 people have died with coronavirus.

Every country records and reports coronavirus deaths in different ways, while some governments censor information, meaning the real figure could be far higher.

Outside of Europe, the next worst-hit nation after the US is Brazil, which has had 13,555 deaths and almost 200,000 confirmed cases.

Governments across the globe have begun easing lockdown measures in attempts to restart their economies.

On Thursday, thousands of businesses in New Zealand reopened their doors to customers as the country relaxed some of its social distancing restrictions.

Shops, cafes, and public parks have all opened up as the government moved into Level Two of its restrictions, described as a "safer new normal," with some overnight hairdressers witnessing queues round the block.

New Zealand has not recorded a single new coronavirus case in the past three days, with authorities saying the chance of community transmission is now very low.

Most gatherings are still limited to 10 people and social distancing guidelines will remain in place under the Level Two measures.

However, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that coronavirus "may never go away" and stressed that nobody "can predict when this disease will disappear."

WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said on Wednesday that Covid-19 could become endemic to the world's population and may remain a permanent worry in society.

Mr Ryan said: "It is important to put this on the table: this virus may become just another endemic virus in our communities, and this virus may never go away.

"I think it is important we are realistic and I don't think anyone can predict when this disease will disappear.

"I think there are no promises in this and there are no dates. This disease may settle into a long problem, or it may not be."

Meanwhile, Dr Hans Kluge, World Health Organisation regional director for Europe, said the UK remained among the top 10 countries around the world reporting the highest number of coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

During a virtual WHO briefing he said: "Across the European region we're seeing an overall slowing of the pandemic.

"But this remains a time of sorrow for many."

Dr Kluge, during the WHO Europe briefing, said: "We each have a role to play in keeping the virus at bay.

"We are now at a fork in the road - where our actions and individual behaviour determines which path we follow."

But he cautioned: "Emergency fatigue threatens precious gains we have made against this virus.

"Reports of distrust in authorities and conspiracy thinking are fuelling movements against physical distancing, other people are behaving over-cautiously.

"Our behaviour today will set the course for the pandemic. As governments lift restrictions, you, the people, are the main actors."

It is hoped a vaccine may be found for the virus, and over 100 potential vaccines are being developed by scientists around the world.

But Mr Ryan said the chances of a successful vaccine being found was a "massive moonshot", and pointed out that even with a vaccine, diseases such as measles have yet to be eradicated.

He also said that a "massive effort" was needed from governments to gain control over the virus and the spread of it.

But WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus gave some light to the situation and said it was possible to gain control with effort.

He said: "The trajectory is in our hands, and it's everybody's business, and we should all contribute to stop this pandemic."

Meanwhile, the UK's coronavirus death toll rose by 428 on Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed fatal cases to 33,614.

In total, 1,593,902 people have been tested and 233,151 have tested positive.

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