Worldwide coronavirus death toll passes 600,000 as infections rise

19 July 2020, 09:30

A medical practitioner waits for patients to test for COVID-19 in Alexandra township, Johannesburg
A medical practitioner waits for patients to test for COVID-19 in Alexandra township, Johannesburg. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Countries including the US, South Africa and India are struggling to hold down rising rates of coronavirus as global deaths from Covid-19 surged past 600,000.

While the US leads global infections, South Africa now ranks as the fifth worst-hit country in the pandemic with 350,879 cases - roughly half of all those confirmed on the African continent.

India on Sunday reported a 24-hour record surge of 38,902 new cases, taking the country's total to 1,077,618.

After a one-day respite, Covid-19 cases in the Australian state of Victoria rose again, prompting a move to make masks mandatory in metropolitan Melbourne and the nearby shire of Mitchell.

Health officials on Sunday recorded 363 new cases in the past 24 hours.

Two men and a woman in their nineties died, taking the national death toll from Covid-19 to 122.

Guests wait in line to ride Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway attraction on the second day of the re-opening of Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World
Guests wait in line to ride Mickey and Minnie's Runaway Railway attraction on the second day of the re-opening of Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. Picture: PA

South Korean authorities are also struggling to suppress an uptick in local infections, with 34 additional cases, 21 of them domestic and 13 from overseas, raising the country's total to 13,745 with 295 deaths.

Elsewhere in Asia, China confirmed 13 new cases in the northwestern city of Urumqi.

The outbreak is the latest to pop up since China largely contained the domestic spread of the virus in March.

At least 30 people have been infected and authorities are conducting universal testing in communities where cases were discovered, later to be expanded to other parts of the city and major businesses.

The World Health Organisation on Saturday again reported a single-day record of new infections with 259,848.

South Africa now trails the US, Brazil and India - all far more populous countries - in the number of infections, surpassing Peru, after health authorities announced 13,285 new cases.

Policemen stand guard outside a residential complex where some residents tested COVID-19 positive in Kolkata, India
Policemen stand guard outside a residential complex where some residents tested COVID-19 positive in Kolkata, India. Picture: PA

South Africa's new coronavirus epicentre, Gauteng province, hosts the cities of Johannesburg and Pretoria and one quarter of the country's population of 57 million, with many poor people living in crowded conditions in the middle of a frosty southern hemisphere winter.

"The simple fact is that many South Africans are sitting ducks because they cannot comply with World Health Organisation protocols on improved hygiene and social distancing," the foundation of former South African archbishop and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah warned in a statement.

Global Covid-19 deaths have hit 601,549, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The United States tops the list with 140,119 deaths, followed by 78,772 in Brazil, 45,358 in the United Kingdom and 38,888 in Mexico, where a surge in cases has frustrated plans to reopen the economy.

The number of confirmed infections worldwide has passed 14.2 million, out of which 3.7 million are in the United States.

There are over two million in Brazil and more than one million in India.

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Experts believe the true numbers around the world are higher because of testing shortages and data collection issues in some nations.

Infections are soaring in US states such as Florida, Texas, Arizona, fuelled by the haphazard lifting of lockdowns and the resistance of some Americans to wearing masks.

Teams of military medics have been deployed in Texas and California to help hospitals deal with a deluge of patients who are flooding emergency rooms in parts of the US.

Police in Barcelona are limiting access to some of the city's beaches because sunbathers are ignoring regulations amid a resurgence of coronavirus.

Authorities in Amsterdam are urging people not to visit the city's famous red light district and have closed off some of the historic district's narrow streets because they are too busy.

Local governments in India continued to reimpose focused lockdowns in several parts of the country following a surge in cases.

And in Iran, the president made the startling announcement that as many as 25 million Iranians could have been infected, the state-run IRNA news agency reported.

Hassan Rouhani cited a new Health Ministry study that has not been made public.

Iran has the Middle East's worst outbreak with more than 270,000 confirmed cases.

In Bangladesh, confirmed cases surpassed 200,000 but experts say the number is much higher as the country lacks adequate labs for testing.

Most people in rural areas have stopped wearing masks and are thronging shopping centres ahead of the Islamic festival Eid al-Adha this month.

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