LONDON: Deaths from the global coronavirus epidemic accelerated again on Friday as the US, Spain and Britain grappled with their highest tolls yet and the world economy took a massive hit.
With more than 53,000 dead, the threat has never been more stark. Experts warn the more than one million cases of Covid-19 confirmed globally are probably just a small proportion of total infections, as testing is not widely available.
Prosperous countries in Europe and North America are currently bearing the brunt of the disease but — with infections also reported in war zones and refugee camps — there are fears of a new explosion among the world’s most vulnerable.
“The worst is yet to come,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, referring to countries beset with fighting like Syria, Libya and Yemen. “The Covid-19 storm is now coming to all these theatres of conflict.”
UN chief says the worst is yet to come, referring to conflict-hit countries like Syria, Libya and Yemen
For the moment, the United States accounts for around a quarter of confirmed cases, but Europe is far from being out of danger — Spain reported more than 900 deaths in 24 hours on Friday, for the second day running.
While Italy still leads the world in fatalities, France, Belgium and Britain have also been hard hit. The UK government opened a 4,000-bed field hospital on Friday ahead of announcing its highest one-day toll of 684.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson is himself entering a second week of isolation with high temperature after testing positive for the virus, but Queen Elizabeth is to make an historic address to Britain and the Commonwealth nations on Sunday.
The public health battle being waged across the world ebbed and flowed, with Germany saying the rate of new infections is slowing but once confident Singapore closing schools and workplaces to fend off a possible renewed upsurge in cases.
‘Worst moment of my life’
The virus has now killed more than 10,000 people across Spain, but it spared 29-year-old Javier Lara, who has returned home after being treated in an overburdened intensive care unit. He spoke to a reporter about his suffering.
“I was panicking that my daughter would get infected. When I started showing symptoms, I said I wouldn’t hold her or go near her,” he said, describing facing death with an eight-week-old as the “worst moment in his life”.
The world economy has been pummelled by the virus and the associated lockdowns, with more than half the population of the planet under some kind of stay-at-home orders.
Published in Dawn, April 4th, 2020