London/Paris, April 16
Europe is in eye of the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic, with the number of deaths crossing 90,000 mark mdash; over 65 per cent of the total casualities in the world. The continent that has over 1 million infected persons, needs to move with extreme caution when considering easing lockdowns, the WHO’s regional director said on Thursday.
“Case numbers across the region continue to climb. In the past 10 days, the number of cases reported in Europe has nearly doubled to over 1 million,” the WHO’s European director, Hans Kluge, told reporters in an online briefing.
Spain, one of the worst-hit countries in Europe saw its coronavirus death toll soar past 19,000 on Thursday after another 551 persons died, with the numbers reflecting a staggered slowdown after nearly five weeks on lockdown. Spain has seen the increase in the number of deaths and infections slow over the past fortnight, with the overnight fatalities taking the toll to 19,130. It also recorded 5,183 new cases, taking the overall figure to 1,82,816 mdash; officially second highest in the world behind the US.
Casualities have been mounting in other countries too. The number of people in Britain who have died in hospital from the disease has risen by 861 to 13,729, according to daily health ministry figures on Thursday. After several days of decreasing numbers, it represents a spike of 100 on the previous day’s rate of increase. The latest figures also showed the number of people in the UK to have tested positive passed 1,00,000.
“The storm clouds of this pandemic still hang heavily over the European region,” Kluge said. He said the WHO recognised that social distancing policies designed to slow the spread of the virus “are affecting lives and livelihoods”. “People are rightly asking: How much do we have to endure? And for how long? In response, we, governments, and health authorities must come up with answers to identify when, under what conditions and how we can consider a safe transition.”
Any step to lift lockdown measures must firstly ensure several key things, he said, including that evidence shows a country’s COVID-19 transmission is being controlled, outbreak risks are minimised, and health systems have the capacity to identify, test and isolate COVID-19 cases.
Meanwhile, total confirmed cases in the USA were at 6,52,9962 and deaths at 33,434 till Thursday as hospitalisations fell for a second day in New York, showing signs that the hardest-hit US state is gaining some control over the outbreak, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. US Senate Democrats unveiled a $30 bn plan to increase nationwide testing. mdash; Agencies