Spain virus death toll tops 4,000

MADRID, Spain (AFP) — The coronavirus death toll in Spain surged to 4,089 after 655 people died within 24 hours, the health ministry said on Thursday. It was a 19 percent increase in figures released Wednesday by the authorities in Spain, which has the world’s second-highest death toll from the disease after Italy. The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose to 56,188, the ministry said. Despite a national lockdown imposed on March 14, which […]

Chinese city eases virus lockdown but life is far from normal

by Jing Xuan TENG HUANGGANG, China (AFP) — Banners warning that playing cards together is suicide and guards yelling at crowds to separate: a Chinese city near the coronavirus ground zero remains far from normal even after emerging from a two-month lockdown. Huanggang, home to 7.5 million people, was among the worst-affected areas in Hubei, the province where the new coronavirus first emerged late last year before morphing into a deadly pandemic. Travel restrictions were […]

Romania health official resigns as country struggles to stem virus

BUCHAREST, Romania (AFP) — Romania’s Health Minister Victor Costache resigned on Thursday following criticism of the government over its handling of the novel coronavirus pandemic. Costache did not give a reason for his resignation while Prime Minister Ludovic Orban said it was for “personal and professional reasons.” Orban added: “I regret his resignation, I understand it and I want to thank him for the good collaboration.” The government has come under fire as Romania’s hospitals […]

Wuhan lockdown bought health systems vital time: study

by Patrick GALEY PARIS, France (AFP) — The lockdown in the Chinese outbreak city of Wuhan brought the COVID-19 epidemic crashing to a halt, giving health systems crucial breathing room to deal with serious cases, new research showed Thursday. Chinese authorities ordered schools, universities and businesses shut following a cluster of COVID-19 cases in the transport hub in January, confining millions of people to their homes in a bid to contain the outbreak. The measures […]

Iran reports 157 new virus deaths, imposes intercity ban

TEHRAN, Iran (AFP) — Iran on Thursday announced 157 new deaths from coronavirus, raising the official number of fatalities to 2,234, as it slapped a ban on intercity travel to try to curb the spread. Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour also said that 2,389 new cases have been confirmed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total number of declared infections in one of the world’s wost-hit countries to 29,406. “Fortunately, until today 10,457 of […]

London hospitals facing ‘tsunami’ of virus patients: NHS official

LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — Hospitals in the British capital are being overwhelmed by COVID-19 patients, the head of an organization representing bosses in the state-run National Health Service said on Thursday. The chief executive of NHS Providers, Chris Hopson, told BBC radio that London hospitals had seen an “explosion of demand… in seriously ill patients”, likening it to a “continuous tsunami”, with numbers predicted to surge in the next fortnight. “They talk about the […]

Germany ramps up coronavirus tests to 500,000 a week

BERLIN, Germany (AFP) — Germany has boosted its coronavirus test rate to 500,000 a week, a virologist said Thursday, adding that early detection has been key in keeping the country’s death rate relatively low. “The reason why Germany has so few deaths compared to the number of infected people can be explained by the fact that we carry out an extremely large number of laboratory diagnostic tests,” said Christian Drosten, who heads the Institute of […]

Iraq extends nationwide curfew until April 11

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AFP) — The Iraqi government said Thursday that it will extend a countrywide lockdown it imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic until April 11. Schools, universities, shopping centers, and other large gathering places will remain closed, as will the country’s international airports. Authorities have confirmed that at least 29 Iraqis have died from COVID-19 and nearly 350 others have contracted the disease. But there are fears the real number is much higher, […]

Tokyo urged to stay home at weekend as virus cases climb

TOKYO, Japan (AFP) — Tokyo’s governor urged residents to stay home this weekend, warning of a possible “explosion” of the coronavirus with a record 41 new cases discovered on Wednesday. Yuriko Koike said the Japanese capital, so far spared the draconian measures seen in other major global cities, was at a “critical stage” in containing the virus that has confined one-third of the planet to their homes. “We urge people at all costs to refrain […]

More than 1,000 US coronavirus deaths, near 70,000 cases: tracker

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — The number of deaths caused by the novel coronavirus rose to 1,031 in the United States on Wednesday, with 68,572 confirmed cases nationwide, a tracker run by the Johns Hopkins University showed. The tracker had shown 827 just a few hours earlier. The United States has the third-highest number of confirmed cases behind China and Italy, and the US death rate is now 1.5 percent, based on reported cases. The […]

IMF approves $1.3 bilion aid program for Jordan

WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — The IMF on Wednesday approved a $1.3 billion aid plan for Jordan, made all the more necessary by the global coronavirus pandemic. The program was initially announced at the end of January before the novel virus rocked the world’s economy. “Changes were made to the program to support unbudgeted spending covering emergency outlays and medical supplies and equipment,” the IMF said in a statement. “If the impact of the outbreak […]

Who will feed us?’: viral shutdown hits N. Africa’s precarious workers

by Sophie Pons with Algiers, Rabat and Tunis bureaux RABAT, Morocco (AFP) — In Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco, workers in informal jobs fear not only the novel coronavirus, but how they will survive emergency measures that have cut off their livelihoods. “We are stuck at home, with no work and no pay,” said Hakim, a 30-year-old father who until last week worked in a bar-restaurant in the Moroccan capital Rabat. His boss told employees he […]