By Agence France-Presse
LOS ANGELES (AFP) – Italy surpassed China on Thursday as the country with the most deaths from coronavirus as California, home to more than 39 million people, was placed under lockdown in the most drastic containment measure yet by a US state.
President Donald Trump said the United States is fast-tracking anti-malarial drugs for use as a treatment and lashed out at China for not informing the world earlier about the original outbreak.
China for its part reported on Friday a second day with no new domestic cases since the virus appeared in the central city of Wuhan in December, before spreading worldwide.
While there was a glimmer of hope in China, several nations tightened their
borders and imposed lockdowns, trapping tens of millions of people in their homes.
The UN chief warned “millions” could die if the virus spreads unchecked around the globe.
World leaders also unleashed nearly a trillion dollars to prop up the teetering global economy, only to see the once-in-a-century pandemic seemingly spiral further out of control.
The death toll soared in Europe as Italy announced another 427 fatalities on Thursday, taking its total to 3,405, according to a tally compiled by AFP from official sources.
China has officially reported 3,245 deaths from the virus, which can cause respiratory failure, particularly in the elderly.
France reported 108 more deaths over the last 24 hours, bringing the total number to 372.
Globally, the death toll from the virus has risen to over 9,800 with more than 232,650 cases in 158 countries and territories, according to the AFP tally.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Thursday of the virus’s potentially devastating effects.
“If we let the virus spread like wildfire — especially in the most vulnerable regions of the world — it would kill millions of people,” Guterres said.
Trump said US authorities were fast-tracking anti-malarials chloroquine, and hydroxychloroquine for use as a coronavirus treatment, making them available “almost immediately.”
The drugs are synthetic forms of quinine, which has been used to treat malaria for centuries.
California Governor Gavin Newsom said the state’s lockdown would begin Thursday evening in “recognition of our interdependence.”
In Britain, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the country could “turn the tide” on coronavirus within 12 weeks — but only if people heed advice to avoid social contact.
Mask diplomacy BEIJING (AFP) – With millions of face masks, low interest loans, and teams of medical experts, China is trying to paint itself as a Good Samaritan while deflecting criticism over its initial missteps in handling the coronavirus.
Beijing has showered struggling European nations with aid as part of a diplomatic charm offensive.
In recent weeks, it has also donated hundreds of thousands of surgical masks and test kits to the Philippines and Pakistan, sent teams of medics to Iran and Iraq, and extended a $500 million loan to help Sri Lanka combat the virus.
As other governments now scramble to cope with the pandemic, China is sending masks, medical supplies, and experts.
President Xi Jinping pledged assistance to hardest-hit Italy and Spain in phone calls with their prime ministers, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Two Chinese medical teams were sent to Italy in a highprofile show of solidarity with the earliest European Union partner in Xi’s massive “Belt and Road” infrastructure project.