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US, Italy, Spain are hardest hit by pandemic

China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-03-30 10:29

Patients are transferred to Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn borough of New York City on Saturday. The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States was 85,228 as of Saturday, according to the World Health Organization. MICHAEL NAGLE / XINHUA

The coronavirus death toll shot past 20,000 in Europe over the weekend, with Italy and Spain reporting the largest number of fatalities.

Globally, the death toll has touched 29,532-two-thirds of those in Europe-and officials in some countries say the worst still lies ahead.

More than 616,700 cases of novel coronavirus have been officially recorded around the world, according to the World Health Organization.

Spain has toughened a nationwide lockdown, halting all non-essential activities, though officials said the epidemic in the country seemed to be nearing a peak, said Agence France-Presse.

Infection rates in Italy are on a downward trend, with the head of the national health institute Silvio Brusaferro predicting a peak "in the next few days".

But in France, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe warned the "battle" was just beginning, adding that the first two weeks of April would be even tougher than the past fortnight, according to AFP.

Europe, AFP said, has suffered the brunt of the coronavirus crisis in recent weeks, with millions across the continent on lockdown, and the streets of Paris, Rome and Madrid eerily empty.

The United States, the current epicenter of the global outbreak, had the highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, at 85,228, as of Saturday, said the WHO. The coronavirus-related deaths in the country soared over the weekend, reaching 1,243.

US President Donald Trump, however, backed away from calling for a quarantine for coronavirus hot spots in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, instead directing on Saturday night that a "strong travel advisory" be issued to stem the spread of the outbreak.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has advised residents of the three states to "refrain from non-essential domestic travel for 14 days", CNN said.

The US Food and Drug Administration issued Emergency Use Authorization to Abbott Labs on Friday for a coronavirus test that delivers positive results in as little as five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes, according to the Associated Press.

The company expects the tests to be available this week and expects to ramp up manufacturing to deliver 50,000 tests per day.

FDA Commissioner Steve Hahn said in a statement that these tests can be a "game changer" in diagnosing COVID-19, AP reported.

Malaysia's Top Glove Corporation Bhd, which makes one in every five gloves globally, expects a product shortage as demand from Europe and the US spikes because of the widening coronavirus outbreak is exceeding its capacity, Reuters said.

Top Glove can produce 200 million natural and synthetic rubber gloves a day. Its executive chairman Lim Wee Chai told Reuters that orders received in the past few weeks, mainly from Europe and the US, were almost double the company's production capacity.

"Some customers panic order; normally they order 10 containers a month but now they suddenly increase to 20 containers," he said.

The WHO warned on Friday that the "chronic global shortage of personal protective gear" is among the most urgent threats to the virus containment efforts.


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