March 20, 2020 08:14
The Chinese city at the center of the coronavirus pandemic reported for the first time Thursday that there were no new cases on Wednesday, while the death toll in Italy surpasses that in all of mainland China.
Wuhan has spent about two months on lockdown as authorities tried to stop the spread of the virus, and in recent weeks the number of new infections there dwindled. Elsewhere in China, though, with health officials reporting 34 total cases Thursday among people who came from elsewhere, there is continued concern about such imported cases threatening the substantial progress the country has made.
China has been the hardest hit by the novel coronavirus since it emerged in late December, with about 81,000 total cases and 3,200 deaths. Most people who became sick have already recovered.
Korea reported 152 new cases Thursday, a step back from its recent progress of fewer than 100 new daily cases for four days in a row.
The virus has reached 166 countries, with more than 208,000 confirmed cases and 8,600 deaths, according to the World Health Organization.
◆ Almost 3,000 Cases in Germany
German health officials reported Thursday a surge of 2,800 cases in a single day, bringing the country's total to 11,000, one of the highest in the world. Lothar Weiler, head of the German government's Robert Koch Institute, said Wednesday as many as 10 million Germans could eventually be infected, but that the number could be significantly reduced if people curtail social interactions.
Even harder hit has been Italy, which had an alarming 475 deaths from the virus Wednesday, raising the country's death toll to 3,405, surpassing the 3,200 deaths in China. The toll COVID-19 has taken on Italy is even more remarkable given its population of 60 million is much smaller than China's 1.4 billion.
Health authorities say a main reason Italy has been particularly hard-hit is because of its large elderly population, the world's second-oldest. Older people are especially at risk of contracting the virus. Italy has been on a strict lockdown for a week, and the Corriere della Sera newspaper quoted Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Thursday saying the measures will be extended beyond their planned expiration later this month.
Other countries have followed the response put in place in Italy, China, Spain and elsewhere in order to try to keep people from going about their daily business and spreading the virus among their communities or to other parts of their country. Spain, the hardest-hit European country behind Italy, converted a four-star hotel in Madrid into a makeshift hospital for coronavirus patients.
◆ Curfews and Travel Bans
Panama announced Wednesday a new nationwide curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., with only police, firefighters, health care workers and sanitation employees allowed out during that time. The country has reported 109 cases to date.
New Zealand announced Thursday it is banning entry to foreigners, shortly after the government advised citizens not to travel overseas because of the risk of contracting the coronavirus. "We will not tolerate risk at our borders," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said at a news conference. The government said it had identified eight new cases involving people who traveled overseas. Its total case number stood at 28.
Nearby Australia said it would also ban entry to non-citizens and non-residents starting Friday. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the "overwhelming proportion" of Australia's 500 confirmed cases have been imported.
◆ New Cases in Latin America
Mexico, which has confirmed 118 cases, reported its first death early Thursday. Hours later, Russia said a 78-year-old woman who tested positive for the virus died, the first in that country as well. Nicaragua and neighboring El Salvador announced late Wednesday that they had confirmed their first cases of the coronavirus.
Several dignitaries have tested positive for COVID-19, including Prince Albert of Monaco and the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator Michael Barnier. U.S. Congresswoman Mario Diaz-Balart and Ben McAdams announced they tested positive, becoming the first U.S. lawmakers to have confirmed cases of the coronavirus.
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