YONGIN (South Korea): A voter infected with Covid-19 pictured at a polling station, set up at a quarantine centre, just before casting her ballot during the April 15 parliamentary election on Saturday. Early voting was held on April 10-11 at 3,508 polling stations across South Korea. Eight polling stations are set up at treatment centres.—Reuters
YONGIN (South Korea): A voter infected with Covid-19 pictured at a polling station, set up at a quarantine centre, just before casting her ballot during the April 15 parliamentary election on Saturday. Early voting was held on April 10-11 at 3,508 polling stations across South Korea. Eight polling stations are set up at treatment centres.—Reuters

NEW YORK: The United States surpassed Italy on Saturday as the country with the highest reported coronavirus death toll, recording more than 20,000 deaths since the outbreak began, according to a credible tally.

The grim milestone was reached as President Donald Trump mulled over when the country, which has registered more than half a million infections, might begin to see a return to normality.

The United States has seen its highest death tolls to date in the epidemic with roughly 2,000 deaths a day reported for the last four days in a row, a plurality of them in and around New York City. Even that is viewed as an understatement, as New York is still figuring out how best to include a surge in deaths at home in its official statistics.

The global death toll from the virus has already surged past 103,000, with the United States quickly becoming the epicentre of the pandemic that first emerged in China late last year.

Signs of hope curve can start to flatten in some of hardest-hit countries of Europe

Europe has so far shouldered the majority of all deaths and infections — though there were signs of hope the curve could be starting to flatten in some of the hardest-hit countries.

Numbers out of Spain offered a shred of hope on Saturday: 510 new deaths, a dip in fatalities for the third day in a row.

France reported nearly 1,000 new deaths on Friday but confirmed a drop in the number of intensive care patients for a second day running. The situation in Italy continued to be grim.

Britain on Saturday recorded its second highest daily toll, as virus-stricken Prime Minister Boris Johnson made “very good progress” after being released from intensive care, a spokeswoman said.

Public health experts, meanwhile, have warned that the US death toll could reach 200,000 over the summer if unprecedented stay-at-home orders that have closed businesses and kept most Americans indoors are lifted after 30 days.

Most of the present restrictions on public life, however, including school closures and emergency orders keeping non-essential workers largely confined to their homes, flow from powers vested in state governors, not the president.

Nonetheless, Trump has said he wants life to return to normal as soon as possible and that the measures aimed at curbing the spread of the Covid-19 disease carry their own economic and public-health cost.

In New York on Saturday, the state’s governor and New York City’s mayor engaged in a fresh squabble over their efforts to combat the virus in what is now the global epicentre, in this instance over how long schools might stay closed.

The state was sometimes slower to impose social-distancing restrictions than other jurisdictions, notably in California, while New York’s two most powerful officials, both Democrats, sometimes disagreed with each other over matters of jurisdiction and the best terminology to use for certain measures.

‘Unreal silence’

Easter weekend kicked off in near-empty churches around the world as parishioners remained locked in their homes.

More than four billion people — over half the world’s population — are confined to their homes from New York to Naples to New Delhi as governments scramble to contain the pandemic’s deadly march across the globe.

Pope Francis live-streamed his Easter Vigil from an empty St Peter’s Basilica late on Saturday, after he presided over an empty Good Friday Service to kick off the holiday weekend.

The pontiff was praised by Italy’s prime minister for his “gesture of responsibility” to observe Easter in private. “We will remember this spring as the one in which, for the first time in history, the pope presided over the general audiences and conducted the Angelus (prayer) by live-stream,” Giuseppe Conte wrote in Italy’s Catholic daily Avvenire.

“His words, although spoken far from Saint Peter’s Square, which was wrapped in an unreal silence, have reached everyone.”

Across Europe, governments urged citizens to stay home for the weekend, fearing people would flock outdoors to enjoy the warm weather or flee to holiday homes.

France deployed some 160,000 gendarmes to patrol busy roads, while long queues of customers formed outside of butcher shops in Paris as residents stocked up on holiday goods.

Turkey said on Friday that a 48-hour lockdown order would be rolled out in dozens of cities, including Ankara and Istanbul, as its virus death toll topped 1,000.

Shoppers crowded supermarkets in Istanbul late on Friday in a rush to stock up on supplies before the curfew kicked in at midnight.

The World Health Organisation has warned that prematurely easing lockdown measures could spark a dangerous return of the disease.

“Lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned on Friday.

Published in Dawn, April 12th, 2020

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