Japan declares state of emergency as global coronavirus toll tops 75,000
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Japan declares state of emergency as global coronavirus toll tops 75,000

Measure comes as first hints of slowdown of infection and deaths appear around the world; China reports no fatalities for previous 24 hours, New York says situation stabilizing

Commuters ride a train in Tokyo, April 7, 2020. (Jae C. Hong/AP)
Commuters ride a train in Tokyo, April 7, 2020. (Jae C. Hong/AP)

Japan’s prime minister on Tuesday declared a month-long state of emergency for Tokyo and six other prefectures after a spike in infections there but it came in the form of a stay-at-home request — not an order — and violators will not be penalized.

The order came as the global death toll passed 75,000 victims, just a day after it hit 70,000, showing the alarming acceleration of the deadly pathogen.

Japan has the world’s oldest population, a worrying target for a virus that has been killing the elderly at much higher rates than other age groups.

“As I decided that a situation feared to gravely affect people’s lives and the economy has occurred… I am declaring a state of emergency,” Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said.

“Although a state of emergency is declared, it won’t mean a city lockdown as seen overseas,” Abe said.

“We will prevent the spread of infection while maintaining economic and social services such as public transport as much as possible,” he explained.

At least 75,945 deaths have been recorded as of Tuesday afternoon, including over 53,000 in Europe, the continent worst hit by the virus, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.

The official tallies probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of cases. Many countries are testing only the most serious cases.

Italy, which recorded its first coronavirus death at the end of February, has 16,523 fatalities, followed by Spain with 13,798, the United States with 10,993 and France with 8,911.

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, 1,350,759 cases have been registered around the world, including 708,898 in Europe, 384,947 in the United States and Canada, and 122,348 in Asia.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe declares a state of emergency during a meeting of the task force against the coronavirus at the his official residence in Tokyo, April 7, 2020. (Franck Robichon/Pool Photo via AP)

Yet there were glimmers Tuesday of slow down in the spread of the virus in some areas.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Tuesday the first, faint signs the outbreak there may be nearing its peak but said it’s not time yet to relax social distancing restrictions.

“The numbers look like it may be turning,” Cuomo said.

The state has averaged just under 600 deaths daily for the past four days. Though horrific, the somewhat steady daily totals were seen as a positive sign. Cuomo also reported that the number of new people entering New York hospitals daily has dropped, as has the number of critically ill patients needing ventilators. But he said the strains on the state’s health care workers were still at unsustainable levels.

The nation’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, was cautiously optimistic, saying that in New York, “what we have been doing has been working.”

China, the first country to go into lockdown and among the strictest, reported no new deaths over the past 24 hours for the first time since it began publishing statistics on the virus that emerged in December in the central city of Wuhan. Many infectious disease experts, however, have been skeptical of the figures coming out of China.

New coronavirus cases were also dropping in European hotspot Italy. Authorities reported 3,599 new cases on Monday, compared with 4,316 the day before. However, Italy suffered 636 new deaths from the virus, up from 525 a day earlier.

A worker sanitizes streets near San Marco, in Venice, April 6, 2020. (Andrew Medichini/AP)

In France, although daily deaths spiked to a record of 833, the rate of new intensive care hospitalizations has slowed dramatically.

Spain, however, bucked the trend with the daily coronavirus death rate shooting up to 743 on Tuesday after falling for four straight days, lifting the total toll to 13,798, the country’s health ministry said.

The number of new infections in the world’s second hardest-hit country after Italy also grew at a faster pace, rising 4.1 percent to 140,510, it added. The number of new cases had risen by 3.3% on Monday.

Health ministry officials have said deaths occurring on the weekend are often registered a few days later, which may explain the rise.

The final travel restrictions on residents in Wuhan in China are due to be lifted Wednesday and Denmark said it planned to reopen schools next week for students up to age 11 — a development that feels impossibly distant elsewhere in the world.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte promised residents that they will soon “reap the fruit of these sacrifices” in personal liberties, though he declined to say when a nationwide lockdown would be lifted. Italy has the world’s highest death toll — over 16,500 — but intensive care units in the north are no longer airlifting patients to other regions.

As of Tuesday morning there had been 60 deaths in Israel from COVID-19. Over 9,000 people are infected, according to Health Ministry figures, with 153 of them seriously ill.

Health personnel wearing protection gear to protect against the spread of the new coronavirus prepare to attend to a patient during the COVID-19 virus outbreak in Barcelona, Spain, April 6, 2020. (Emilio Morenatti/AP)

Worldwide, more than 1.3 million people have been confirmed infected and nearly 75,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are certainly much higher, because of limited testing, different ways nations count the dead and deliberate underreporting by some governments. Deaths in the US neared 11,000, with more than 368,000 confirmed infections.

For most people, the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and lead to death. More than 285,000 people have recovered worldwide.

Stocks jumped on Wall Street and around the world on hopes that the pandemic could be slowing. Global shares were up Tuesday, as well as Dow futures, after the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained more than 1,600 points, or nearly 8%, on Monday.

The latest data suggests social distancing appears to be working in some countries, and better than expected.

One of the main models on the outbreak, the University of Washington’s, is now projecting about 82,000 US deaths through early August, or 12% fewer than previously forecast, with the highest number of daily deaths occurring on April 16. The model relies on much more robust data from Italy and Spain and from hospitals.

One unusual lockdown exception was Wisconsin, which was asking hundreds of thousands of voters on Tuesday to ignore a stay-at-home order in the midst of a pandemic to participate in its presidential primary.

South Korea said it will soon announce guidelines for hospitals on experimental coronavirus treatments using donated blood from patients who survived. Kwon Jun-wook from South Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the guide will be drawn from the country’s experience with similar treatments on MERS virus patients in 2015.

In further restrictions, China and Russia decided to close their land border and river port near Vladivostok following the discovery of 59 confirmed cases.

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