US cases surpass China; global deaths at 24,000: Virus Update

US cases surpass China; global deaths at 24,000: Virus Update

Paramedics prepare to transport a potential coronavirus disease (Covid-19) patient in Shawnee, Oklahoma, US, on Thursday. (Reuters photo)
Paramedics prepare to transport a potential coronavirus disease (Covid-19) patient in Shawnee, Oklahoma, US, on Thursday. (Reuters photo)

The US overtook China with the most coronavirus cases worldwide, fuelled by a large jump in infections in New York, while global deaths from the pandemic reached 24,000.

President Donald Trump offered a plan to restore normal business by ranking counties by their virus risk. Equities jumped on optimism the US$2 trillion US stimulus package will blunt the pandemic’s impact.

China, where the outbreak began, will temporarily suspend the entry of foreigners holding valid visas and residence permits starting Saturday. Virtually all China’s latest infections came from overseas.

Key developments:

  • Cases at 531,000; 24,000 dead, 122,000 recovered: Johns Hopkins
  • US fatalities top 1,100; confirmed cases in Canada surge 72%
  • Italy’s new cases surged again
  • Ventilators are top fear in New York as deaths mount
  • Second shockwave is hitting China’s factories
  • The airlines most in danger from a $252 billion blow

Latest developments

Malaysia reports 130 new cases

Malaysia reported 130 new cases on Friday and a total of 2,161 infections, the highest total in Southeast Asia.

The number of deaths from the virus outbreak rose to 26, the health ministry said.

Earlier on Friday, Malaysia announced a stimulus package worth 250 billion ringgit ($58.28 billion) to help cushion the economic blow from the coronavirus pandemic.

Indonesia’s cases top 1,000 after biggest daily jump

Indonesia reported the biggest daily jump in new infections with the total number of confirmed cases topping 1,000. The country also reported 9 new deaths, taking the total to 87, the highest in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia became the third country in Southeast Asia after Malaysia and Thailand to report coronavirus cases of more than 1,000. Authorities have closed schools, pubs, cinemas and other entertainment spots in capital Jakarta to prevent the spread of the disease that’s killed more than 24,000 people worldwide.

The Greater Jakarta area, home to almost 30 million people, accounted for more than two thirds of the infections and deaths and has become the epicentre of the outbreak for the fourth-most populous nation.

Vietnam bans big gatherings, cuts flights

Vietnam will limit domestic flights and stop public gatherings for two weeks from Saturday, the government said in a statement on Friday.

Indoor gatherings of more than 20 people and outdoor gatherings of 10 people or more will be banned, the government said, citing an order signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.

Vietnam has found 153 coronavirus cases but has had no reported deaths, according to the health ministry. More than 57,000 people are in quarantine.

In the statement on Friday, Phuc also ordered that flights between the capital, Hanoi, and the southern business hub of Ho Chi Minh City and cities across the country be reduced.

All major cities should temporarily shut down non-essential services until April 15 at the earliest and residents should stay indoors as much as possible, Mr Phuc said.

Australia to quarantine international air arrivals

Australian authorities will quarantine anyone arriving in the nation’s airports amid concern some residents returning home were failing to self-isolate.

The defence force will be deployed to enforce the measures, Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters after a meeting of the National Cabinet.

The government has moved incrementally to shut down society, closing pubs and casinos, barring non-essential travel and closing its borders to non-residents. Yet the number of infections has grown, reaching 2,985 on Friday and 13 deaths.

Chinese industrial firms see profits slump

Profits of Chinese industrial companies slumped the most on record. Industrial profits dropped by 38.3% in the first two months of this year compared to the same period in 2019, the National Bureau of Statistics saidFriday. Profits at state-owned firms, private companies and foreign-invested business all dropped more than 30%.

The drop is due to the severe shock caused by the sudden outbreak, according to a statement from NBS official Zhang Weihua. Both production and sales dropped, while profits were squeezed by rising costs and falling prices of industrial products.

Top K-pop group BTS cancels North America tour

The biggest K-pop band in the world, BTS, is cancelling its North America tour over coronavirus concerns. The band was scheduled to perform in cities across the US as well as Canada for its “BTS Map of the Soul Tour” from April 25 to June 6, with the first performance scheduled at Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium. The decision was made “in order to make sure that we put the safety of everyone involved first and foremost,” Big Hit Entertainment, the group’s agency, said in a statement.

Vietnam Finance Ministry plans $3.4bn stimulus

Vietnam’s Finance Ministry proposes a 80-trillion-dong ($3.4-billion) stimulus plan that includes delaying tax payments and land lease fees to help struggling businesses amid the novel coronavirus outbreak, according to a statement on the ministry’s website.

The ministry previously backed a 30-trillion-dong stimulus plan, the statement said. The stimulus aims to help businesses in an array of sectors, including electronics, textiles, education and entertainment.

China says 54 of 55 new cases imported

Zhejiang province reported one domestic infection March 26, China’s National Health Commission said. China now has 81,340 confirmed cases, of whom 595 are from overseas.

China’s death toll rose by 5 to 3,292. All the most recent deaths were reported in Hubei province. The number of discharged patients in the country reached 74,588.

North Korea quarantines 2,280, KCNA says

North Korea has about 2,280 people in quarantine for “medical observation” over coronavirus concerns, state media Korean Central News Agency reported. One foreigner was released from quarantine, while two remain in isolation. KCNA didn’t mention whether there were any infections. North Korea has so far reported no confirmed cases.

New Jersey to discuss how to ration ventilators

State authorities will ask medical experts on a bioethics panel to set guidelines for which Covid-19 patients will get ventilators, wrenching decisions that could determine who lives and who dies.

“That is, I would have to say, one of the more difficult issues that we will be discussing,” State Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli told reporters on Thursday. “What happens if we don’t have enough ventilators to take care of the patients that we have?”

US surpasses China to lead the world in cases

The US surpassed China as having the most confirmed cases in the world, Johns Hopkins data show. Infections in America have topped 82,400, compared with 81,782 in the Asian country where the outbreak began three months ago.

The American tally was bolstered by a large jump in New York, which had 6,448 new cases Thursday, bringing the state’s total to 37,258. That accounts for almost half the outbreak nationwide, according to data collected by Bloomberg.

New Jersey and California also saw large increases in patients, and smaller hot spots in states like Michigan and Illinois began to grow more quickly.

Italian health officials reported 6,153 new cases Thursday, the most in five days, bringing the country’s total to 80,539. The outbreak in mainland China remains the largest globally

Trump says G-20 leaders discussed data-sharing

US President Donald Trump said leaders from the Group of 20 nations discussed the importance of sharing data and information on the pandemic during a video conference chaired by Saudi Arabia.

The G-20 leaders said earlier Thursday that they were injecting over $5 trillion into the global economy and committed to do “whatever it takes” to overcome the pandemic and its fallout.

Washington’s new cases slow

Washington state has seen a drop in the rate of new cases being reported, Governor Jay Inslee said at a press conference, led by improvement in three counties in near Seattle where the outbreak began a month ago. Other counties aren’t seeing the pace of new cases slow, he said.

While hospitals are not yet full, the state -- which ranks fourth in US cases -- needs to see a significant further reduction in cases in order to avoid running out of beds and equipment in the coming days, he said.

“We should not be within 10,000 miles of champagne corks on this,” Inslee said. Without further decreases to the case count “a lot of people in the state of Washington are going to die.”

UK helps self-employed workers

The UK government offered self-employed workers cash grants of as much as £2,500 ($3,040) a month.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak announced the three-month plan, at a cost the Treasury estimates will be about £9 billion, after his offer last week to pay a portion of citizens’ wages was widely criticised for omitting self-employed workers.

About 95% of self-employed workers, 3.8 million people, will be eligible for the grants, Sunak said.

Latin bank offers aid

The Inter-American Development Bank will make $12 billion available to countries for responding to the crisis and its aftermath. That includes $8.8 billion for other purposes that the nations can redirect, and $3.2 billion added to the the 2020 lending programme.

The Washington-based IDB provided loans and technical assistance in a region with chronic infrastructure and financial shortages.

Trump considers plan to rank counties by risk

President Donald Trump said his administration is working on a plan that would rank US counties into one of three categories as a step toward the relaxing the tight restrictions put in place to halt the spread of the coronavirus.

The administration, using criteria developed based on expanded testing capabilities and in consultation with health officials, proposes to designate counties as high-risk, medium-risk and low-risk. This ranking will help local officials decide on maintaining, increasing or relaxing social distancing and other measures, the president said in a letter to US governors.

“Americans across the country are hoping the day will soon arrive when they can resume their normal economic, social and religious lives,” Trump wrote in the letter released by the White House.

Italy virus cases rise, fuelled by Lombardy

Italy reported its biggest rise in coronavirus infections in the past five days, as the disease spread further in the northern Lombardy region, even after weeks of rigid lockdown rules.

The civil protection agency reported 6,153 new cases on Thursday, up from 5,210 a day earlier.

Fatalities from the outbreak over the past 24 hours totaled 662, down from 683 for the previous day, according to figures provided at the agency’s daily news conference on Thursday. Confirmed cases in the country now total 80,539.

NY patients staying on ventilators

Some New Yorkers are staying on ventilators as long as 30 days, dimming hopes for their recovery and adding to the shortage of the lifesaving machines, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.

Cuomo reported 100 more fatalities, for a total of 385, as hospitals brace for more. The city is deploying refrigerated trailers for use as temporary morgues. Until the outbreak is under control, Cuomo said officials are focused on reducing the rate of increase, not the reducing the number of cases, so hospitals don’t run out of beds.

New York added almost 6,500 cases, for a total of more than 37,000.

China blocks foreigners

China will temporarily suspend the entry of foreigners starting Saturday as cases worldwide surge, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and National Immigration Administration said on its website.

China has to take “necessary and temporary” measures in response to the current coronavirus situation, using practices of various countries as reference, the agencies said. Adjustments will be made according to the situation, they said.

UK police get extra powers

The UK government gave police strengthened enforcement powers to ensure people stay at home unless their trip is essential. From Thursday, the police may issue a penalty of 60 pounds ($73), rising to 120 pounds for second-time offenders.

Those not paying the fine can be taken to court and police can arrest those who continuously refuse to comply.

US delays new ID deadline by year

The US delayed by a year, until October 2021, the deadline for states to issue new identification documents that meet the federal Real ID standards. Chad Wolf, acting Homeland Security secretary, said states needed time because motor vehicle offices that issue driver’s licenses have been closed in response to Covid-19.

UK warns on ‘coughing’ as harassment

The UK is ready to crack down on coughing as a way to threaten or intimidate police officers and shop workers. The nation’s prosecution office issued a statement after reports that emergency workers were coughed at by people claiming to be infected. That could lead to assault charges and two years in jail, the prosecution service said.

Iran bans in-country travel

Iran banned travel between cities and ordered people to return to their hometowns or face fines after millions defied calls to stay indoors and went out to celebrate the Persian new year. President Hassan Rouhani warned of a second surge of the disease after new cases surged followed the holiday period.

Emergency services and cargo vehicles are exempt from the travel ban, the semi-official Tasnim news agency quoted Iran’s police chief as saying.

Faster virus tests

Henry Schein said an antibody rapid blood test, known as Standard Q COVID-19 IgM/IgG Rapid Test, is now available. The test is intended to be administered at the point of care and delivers results within 15 minutes from a pinprick with no instrumentation required.

Earlier, Robert Bosch GmbH said it developed a test that can diagnose Covid-19 in less than 2.5 hours. The new test uses the Vivalytic molecular diagnostics platform made by Bosch’s healthcare division, used in hospitals, laboratories and medical practices. Patients typically must wait one or two days before they get test results.

Separately, UK-based Mologic Ltd has sent prototypes of a 10-minute coronavirus test to laboratories for validation before it can begin full-scale manufacturing. The company and its partner, the Senegalese research foundation Institut Pasteur de Dakar, have developed a finger-prick test to determine whether a person had the illness and the state of their immune system. The company is also working on a separate saliva test to detect the presence of the virus.

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