March 26, 2020 08:05
Spain now has more coronavirus deaths than any country except Italy, after adding 738 fatalities on Wednesday. The one-day spike increased Spain's death toll to 3,434, exceeding the 3,285 deaths in China, but still far behind world leader Italy with 6,820.
Spain's Ministry of Health said Wednesday infections in the country climbed by 20 percent from the previous day to 47,610. The ministry said more than 5,000 people in Spain have recovered.
The outbreak has strained Spain's health care system, particularly around the capital of Madrid where about half the country's fatalities and one-third of confirmed cases have been reported.
China has lifted a lockdown on Hubei province where the novel coronavirus pandemic began, while the World Health Organization warned the United States could be the next center of outbreak.
China overall has seen vast improvements in its case load after implementing tough measures meant to keep people at home and prevent spreading the virus. Chinese health officials reported Wednesday 47 new cases, all of them among people who arrived from other countries.
The United States has seen the coronavirus spread rapidly in recent weeks, bringing its toll as of early Wednesday to about 55,000 confirmed cases with more than 700 deaths.
"They have a very large outbreak and an outbreak that is increasing in intensity," WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said Tuesday, while noting increased testing in the United States could send that number higher. Harris said 85 percent of the newly confirmed cases Tuesday were in Europe and the United States, and 40 percent of those were in the United States.
U.S. President Donald Trump said Tuesday he wants to see normal life resume in as early as a few weeks, while health officials say it is premature to do anything but insist on continuing measures to keep people apart so they do not spread the virus.
The U.S. Senate is set to vote Wednesday on a $2 trillion bill meant to help small businesses with loans, give money to families so they can spend, and to provide critically needed equipment to health care professionals who are caring for coronavirus patients.
Wednesday also brought a declaration of a state of emergency in New Zealand where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the country would go into full lockdown for four weeks "to try to stop the virus in its tracks." New Zealand announced 50 new cases Wednesday, its highest daily total.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced a worldwide humanitarian response plan and appealed for $2 billion to fund the initiative. Guterres said that compared with the $2 trillion stimulus plan that's being finalized in the U.S., his monetary appeal amounted to a "drop in the ocean."
The UN initiative is aimed at assisting conflict-torn countries in the Middle East, Africa, South America and Asia to combat the virus and help stem its spread throughout the world. UN Humanitarian Affairs Coordinator Mark Lowcock announced a $60 million contribution from the agency's emergency relief fund.
Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, has tested positive for COVID-19 and has self-isolated in Scotland. A statement said he "has been displaying mild symptoms" but is otherwise in good health. The statement said it is not possible to determine how the prince was infected given the large number of engagements he attended in recent weeks.
Russia reported its first two deaths Wednesday. One patient was 88 years old and the other was 73. Both died of pneumonia and had underlying health conditions. Russia said there were 658 cases nationwide.
COVID-19 has reached nearly every country in the world, infecting 423,000 people and killing about 19,000, according to Johns Hopkins University figures early Wednesday. Libya had been spared up until Tuesday when it announced its first coronavirus case.
Italy, which has the second highest number of cases and has seen the harshest effects recently with hundreds of deaths per day will be under stricter scrutiny as authorities seek to enforce a lockdown order that has been in place for more than two weeks. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced higher fines for those caught outside without an approved reason, raising the top punishment from about $227 to $3,300.
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