Spain records 950 deaths in day as global toll approaches 50,000
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Spain records 950 deaths in day as global toll approaches 50,000

Number of confirmed cases worldwide expected to pass 1 million in coming day or two, head of WHO says, calling for increased readiness

Undertakers carry the coffin of Rosalia Mascaraque, 86, during the coronavirus outbreak in Zarza de Tajo, central Spain, on April 1, 2020. . (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
Undertakers carry the coffin of Rosalia Mascaraque, 86, during the coronavirus outbreak in Zarza de Tajo, central Spain, on April 1, 2020. . (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

Spain reported a record 950 deaths in 24 hours on Thursday, as the world’s health official announced that the global death toll from the novel coronavirus was projected to pass 50,000 in the coming days.

Over 48,000 people have died so far from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and the number of confirmed cases globally surpassed 950,000 on Thursday afternoon.

The death toll in Spain marked the second straight day it recorded over 900 fatalities, though officials said there were signs that the virus’s spread may be slowing.

“The data show the curve has stabilized” and the epidemic has entered a “slowdown” phase, Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa said.

Spain has the world’s second-highest death toll after Italy, with the virus so far claiming 10,003 lives although the rate of new infections and deaths continued its downward trend, the figures released by the country’s Health Ministry showed. Over 13,000 Italians have died in the global pandemic so far.

Officials have warned that even if the epidemic is peaking, the pressure on the intensive care system would be subject to a lag of a week or longer, with hospitals likely to reach crisis point by the end of this week or early next.

An elderly COVID-19 patient is transferred to an ambulance from a Hospital in Barcelona, Spain, March 27, 2020. (AP/Felipe Dana)

“In the next day or two, we will reach more than 1 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 globally, and 50,000 deaths,” World Health Organization director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Thursday.

“This virus, which was unknown to us three months ago, has exposed the weaknesses and inequities in our health systems and societies, our lack of preparedness, and the gaps in our supply chains and other essential systems. We have to prepare our health systems for large numbers of cases, even as we maintain essential health services,” he said.

More than 95% of those who have died of coronavirus in Europe have been over 60, but young people should not be complacent, the head of the WHO’s office in Europe said.

Dr. Hans Kluge said age is not the only risk factor for getting a severe case of the virus that has put billions under lockdown and upended the world economy.

“The very notion that COVID-19 only affects older people is factually wrong,” he said at an online news conference in Copenhagen. “Young people are not invincible.”

The UN health agency says 10% to 15% of people under 50 with the disease have moderate or severe cases.

“Severe cases of the disease have been seen in people in their teens or 20s, with many requiring intensive care and some unfortunately passing away,” Kluge said.

He said recent statistics showed 30,098 people have been reported to have died in Europe, mostly in Italy, France and Spain and that more than 80% of those who died had at least one other chronic underlying condition like cardiovascular disease, hypertension or diabetes.

The dead have included a 16-year-old in France, a 12-year-old in Belgium and Ismail Mohamed Abdullah, 13, in Britain, whose family said the “gentle and kind” boy had no underlying health issues.

A study by researchers in Singapore on Wednesday estimated that around 10% of new infections may be sparked by people who carry the virus but have not yet suffered symptoms.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus speaks during a press briefing on the coronavirus at the WHO headquarters in Geneva on March 9, 2020. (Fabrice Coffrini/ AFP)

In response, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention changed how it defined the risks of infection, saying essentially that anyone may be a carrier, whether they have symptoms or not. But neither it nor the World Health Organization changed their recommendations that everyone did not have to wear masks.

The United States, which now accounts for almost a quarter of reported global infections, saw its death toll pass 5,000 by the early hours of Thursday, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Among the latest known US fatalities was a six-week-old baby who was taken to a Connecticut hospital late last week.

“Testing confirmed last night that the newborn was COVID-19 positive,” the state’s Governor Ned Lamont tweeted. “This is absolutely heartbreaking.”

Trump, who was criticised for initially playing down the virus but has stepped up containment efforts in recent days, warned that the situation was going to get much worse.

“We’re going to have a couple of weeks, starting pretty much now, but especially a few days from now, that are going to be horrific,” he said.

“But even in the most challenging of times, Americans do not despair. We do not give in to fear.”

More than three-quarters of Americans are under lockdown, including tens of thousands of prisoners, who were told Wednesday they would be confined to their cells for two weeks.

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