Virus spread accelerating, WHO chief warns, as global death toll tops 16,000
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Virus spread accelerating, WHO chief warns, as global death toll tops 16,000

Italy records over 600 deaths for second straight day, but signs emerge virus may be leveling off there; world health chief says it’s not too late to reverse trajectory of pandemic

Medical workers stretcher a patient from an Italian Red Cross ambulance into an intensive care unit set up in a sports center outside the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, during the coronavirus pandemic, March 23, 2020. (Miguel MEDINA/AFP)
Medical workers stretcher a patient from an Italian Red Cross ambulance into an intensive care unit set up in a sports center outside the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, during the coronavirus pandemic, March 23, 2020. (Miguel MEDINA/AFP)

The head of the World Health Organization warned that the coronavirus outbreak was accelerating, as the global death toll from the virus topped 16,000, though new data from Italy showed that the outbreak may be leveling off there.

Over 367,000 cases were reported worldwide, including 16,097 dead and 100,879 people known to have recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.

The tallies were gathered by Johns Hopkins University, which collates information from all over the world.

The largest jump came from Italy, which recorded 602 deaths, down from 651 a day earlier.

Data released by Italy’s Civil Protection agency on Monday also showed 4,789 new cases from a day earlier, nearly 700 fewer than the figure reported Sunday.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that COVID-19 has now been reported in nearly every country in the world.

But he noted that “we can change the trajectory of this pandemic.”

He said it took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 100,000 cases; 11 days for the second 100,000 cases, and just four days for the third 100,000 cases.

Tedros said he would speak with heads of state and government from the G20 countries, saying he would ask them to help increase production, avoid export bans, and ensure fair distribution of “lifesaving tools” that are facing a growing shortage.

He noted measures put in place to slow the spread of the virus may be exacerbating shortages of essential protective gear and the materials.

As cases in China have ebbed, the dangers to Europe and the US have grown exponentially, although Germany on Monday cautiously reported some flattening of its infection curve.

Magen David Adom workers wearing protective clothing bring a woman suspected of having the coronavirus to Hadassah Hospital Ein Karem in Jerusalem on March 22, 2020. (Flash90)

The highest number of deaths has been in Italy, with 6,078 by Monday, nearly doubling the over 3,200 deaths recorded in China.  Spain, with 2,206 deaths, has the third highest number of fatalities so far.

There have been 1,238 confirmed cases in Israel, with one death.

After just a few weeks, the US has more than 35,000 cases and more than 400 deaths. From California to Illinois to New York, officials have now asked or ordered one-third of the US population to stay home, with essential businesses closed.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for an immediate cease-fire in conflicts around the world to tackle the pandemic.

Women wearing masks walk past a bus in London, March 22, 2020. (Kirsty Wigglesworth/ AP)

“It is time to put armed conflict on lock down and focus together on the true fight of our lives,” he said.

Some 1.7 billion people have been asked to stay home in over 50 countries and territories around the world as governments battle the pandemic sweeping the globe, according to an AFP tally Monday.

Some countries have imposed mandatory lockdown measures, while others have issued stay-at-home recommendations to stem the spread of the virus.

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