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161 new virus cases in Kuwait; deaths top 100,000 worldwide

KUWAIT: The health ministry announced yesterday that 161 people were infected by the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 1,154. Health Ministry Spokesperson Dr Abdullah Al-Sanad told KUNA that 27 patients are in intensive care. Those currently receiving treatment at hospitals have reached 1,020, said the spokesperson, adding that 1,445 individuals have completed quarantine. One death has been reported so far.

Regarding the new infected cases, Sanad said travel-related cases numbered 31, part of the recent evacuation flights, who were under institutional quarantine. Seventeen cases are related to Kuwaiti citizens arriving from the UK, nine Kuwaitis arriving from Germany, three citizens arriving from the US, one case related to an illegal resident (bedoon) arriving from the UK and one Indian resident arriving from Egypt.

Sanad added that 127 cases are related to people who were in contact with infected patients – four Kuwaitis, 101 Indians, 15 Bangladeshis, one Saudi, one Filipino, one Jordanian and one Pakistani. As for cases under epidemical investigation, Sanad indicated that the tally reached six patients, including one Kuwaiti, two Indians, one Bulgarian, one Egyptian and one Filipino. Earlier yesterday, the ministry announced the recovery of 10 new patients, bringing the total to 133 recoveries.

Meanwhile, the global coronavirus death toll topped 100,000 as Easter weekend celebrations around the world kicked off in near-empty churches with billions of people stuck indoors to halt the pandemic. Extraordinary measures from New York to Naples to New Delhi have seen businesses and schools closed in a desperate bid to halt the virus’s spread, and the IMF has warned that the world now faces the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

More than 102,000 people have died of COVID-19 with 1.7 million infections detected globally, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker, with nearly 70 percent of the fatalities in Europe. The United States, now the pandemic’s epicenter, became the first country to record more than 2,000 virus deaths in one day and is closing in on Italy’s 18,849 fatalities – currently the highest national figure.

With more than half a million reported infections, the United States already has more coronavirus cases than anywhere else in the world. President Donald Trump, however, said that with the US infection trajectory “near the peak” and social distancing working well, he was considering ways to re-open the world’s biggest economy as soon as possible. He acknowledged the risk of higher death tolls if businesses restart too soon.

“But you know what? Staying at home leads to death also,” Trump added, pointing to the massive economic suffering for millions of Americans. It is unclear when that will be possible, with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo saying millions in the state – the hardest hit in the country – will have to be tested before it can reopen. The World Health Organization has warned that prematurely lifting lockdown restrictions – affecting more than half the planet’s population – could spark a dangerous resurgence of the disease.

Easter celebrations that would normally see churches packed with parishioners were replaced by an eerie emptiness on Friday. Even hallowed traditions have been revamped – Pope Francis will livestream his Easter message from the seclusion of his private library. “We have to respond to our confinement with all our creativity,” the pontiff said. “We can either get depressed and alienated… or we can get creative.”

Worshippers in Germany embraced social distancing orders to celebrate Good Friday at a drive-in service in Dusseldorf. “It was a sad feeling at first,” Catholic priest Frank Heidkamp told AFP, as hundreds gathered in a parking lot. In Muslim-majority Pakistan, the Christian underclass is facing unemployment because of the pandemic this Easter, and many are wondering how they will survive. “My kids asked me for new Easter dresses and shoes but I have told them we are not going to have Easter this year,” said Aamir Gill, a cleaner who was fired without severance days after the virus crisis took hold in Pakistan.

More than four billion people are confined to their homes as governments worldwide have imposed never-before-seen measures to halt the virus, which first emerged late last year in central China. Like Trump, governments in Europe are under pressure to strike a balance between keeping people safe and keeping already battered economies stable. “Lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence,” WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday.

Some countries, especially in Asia, are worried about a possible second wave of infections imported from travellers as life creeps back to normal. And while Trump has discussed a rapid return to economic stability, the US government’s top infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci said that despite signs of progress, “this is not the time… to be pulling back at all” on social distancing efforts.

Glimmers of hope may be emerging in some countries. Spain, the third-hardest-hit country, saw its lowest 24-hour toll in 17 days, after Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the “fire started by the pandemic is starting to come under control”. And the daily rises in new infections in hardest-hit Italy have slowed dramatically. Still, the Italian government said it would extend lockdown orders until May 3.

In Britain – where the government has resisted calls to ease lockdown measures – spirits were lifted on Friday when virus-stricken Prime Minister Boris Johnson showed signs of recovery after three days in intensive care. “The prime minister has been able to do short walks, between periods of rest,” a Downing Street spokesman said.

The pandemic has shaken the global economy, and the International Monetary Fund – which has $1 trillion in lending capacity – said it was responding to calls from 90 countries for emergency financing. G20 energy ministers, meanwhile, pledged to work together to ensure oil market stability after major oil producers agreed to cut output. A dramatic slump in oil demand, worsened by a Saudi-Russia price war, has sent prices crashing to near two-decade lows in recent weeks. In much of the developing world, there are fears the worst is still to come.

War-torn Yemen, already suffering one of the world’s most acute humanitarian crises, reported its first case. The announcement came on the second day of the two-week ceasefire declared by the military coalition supporting the government in what it said was a move to help fight the pandemic. “The first confirmed case of coronavirus has been reported in Hadramawt province,” Yemen’s supreme national emergency committee for COVID-19 said on Twitter. In Brazil, authorities confirmed the first deaths in Rio de Janeiro’s slums, where overcrowding and poor sanitation have raised fears of a catastrophe.

In all, at least 100,859 people have died from coronavirus, according to an AFP tally at 1900 GMT on Friday, using official figures. More than 1.6 million declared cases have been registered in 193 countries, of which at least 335,900 are considered recovered. In the last eight days, more deaths were registered than in the preceding 84 days. The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the WHO, probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. Many countries are only testing the most serious cases. Others do not have a policy of large-scale testing when resources are severely lacking, as in Africa.

In France, for example, deaths in nursing homes were not counted until April 2 and the daily number of deaths in these establishments prior to that date would have to be reconstructed. Some countries, such as Spain, have also questioned whether their tolls might be higher, as people dying at home are generally not taken into account.

With 70,270 deaths out of 857,822 cases – equivalent to 70 percent and 52 percent of the global totals respectively – Europe remains the hardest-hit region by the pandemic. On March 22, it had registered fewer than 10,000 deaths. The spread has accelerated in recent weeks – in 11 days, the number of deaths has doubled. Almost everywhere in Europe, morgues are overwhelmed, with coffins lined up in churches in Bergamo, an ice rink in Madrid and a market hall in Rungis in France. Italy and Spain are the two European countries hardest hit, with 18,849 and 15,843 deaths respectively.

The disease is now spreading fastest in the United States, and New York state in particular, where the number of registered cases has surpassed Italy’s, with more than 160,000 for the state and 93,000 for New York City alone. More than 28 percent of the global number of cases have been registered in the US – 486,490 as of 1900 GMT on Friday.

Even if the number of people who have been hospitalized has stabilized in a number of states, with 18,002 deaths, the US has the second highest death toll in the world after Italy. After Italy, the United States and Spain, the countries most affected in terms of the number of deaths are France with 13,197 deaths, Britain with 8,958, Iran with 4,232 and mainland China with 3,336. – Agencies

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