By Agence France-Presse
PARIS/MADRID (AFP) – More than 30,000 people have died worldwide in the coronavirus pandemic, twothirds of them in Europe, with Italy and Spain each reporting more than 800 dead in one day, as US President Donald Trump decided against putting the hard-hit New York region under quarantine.
In total, 30,003 lives have been lost with 21,334 of those in Europe where Italy has the highest number of fatalities with 10,023 deaths, followed by Spain with 5,690, the tally based on official information sources found.
Up to one-third of the world’s population is under lockdown as the virus leaves its devastating imprint on nearly every aspect of society: wiping out millions of jobs, straining healthcare services and weighing heavily on national treasuries for years to come.
Globally, the death toll has stormed past 30,000 and officials in some countries say the worst still lies ahead.
But in the Chinese city of Wuhan where the virus first struck late last year, officials took tentative steps back towards normality, partially reopening it after more than two months of near-total isolation for its 11 million residents.
Trump decided late Saturday against imposing a broad lockdown on New York and its neighbors after a strong pushback from local political leaders and warnings of the panic it could spark.
”A quarantine will not be necessary,” Trump tweeted, about eight hours after he stunned the New York metropolitan region — the epicenter of the US outbreak — with a proposal to place it under quarantine.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, asked residents not to travel except for essential purposes.
Trump’s reversal came on the same day the US death toll topped 2,100, more than doubling in just three days. Of the fatalities, more than a quarter were in New York City.
Health officials say they fear New York may follow the deadly path charted by Italy, with health professionals exhausted and hospitals desperately short of protective equipment and ventilators.
The United States now has the highest number of confirmed COVID19 infections globally with more than 124,000 cases, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.
One of the fatalities announced Saturday was that of a Chicago infant who was younger than one year old, marking an extremely rare case of juvenile death in the global pandemic.
Italy and Spain
European nations have been harder hit than the US on a per capita basis with over 20,000 deaths — around half in worst-hit Italy.
Spain, with the world’s secondhighest toll, added 832 deaths on Saturday for a total of 5,812.
Madrid toughened a nationwide lockdown, halting all non-essential activities, though officials said the epidemic in the country seemed to be nearing a peak.
Russia said it would close its borders on Monday, despite reporting relatively low levels of the virus.
More than 664,000 cases of the novel coronavirus have been officially recorded around the world since the outbreak began late last year, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker.
In France, which has seen close to 2,000 deaths, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe warned the ”battle” was just beginning.
The first two weeks in April would be even tougher than the past fortnight, he said.
The British toll passed 1,000 on Saturday while Belgium saw a steep climb in deaths, with 353 recorded on Saturday — up from 289 the day before.
Elsewhere, Iran announced 139 more deaths, and India sealed a dozen villages that had been visited by a guru now known to be infected and a possible ”super-spreader”.
South African police used rubber bullets in Johannesburg to enforce social distancing on a crowd queueing for supplies outside a supermarket during a national lockdown.
Any Canadians showing possible symptoms of having the novel coronavirus will not be allowed to board trains or planes for domestic travel, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday.
The new restrictions will take effect on Monday, Trudeau told reporters at his daily press briefing.
Canada has confirmed more than 5,100 coronavirus infections and recorded 55 deaths, the head of the country’s public health agency, Theresa Tam, said.
Tam said that 30 percent of those hospitalized in Canada over COVID-19 are under the age of 40.
Australia domestic violence cases surge
Australia on Sunday announced a nearly US$100 million boost in funding to tackle domestic violence after support services reported a spike in coronavirus-related family abuse.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there had been a 75 percent surge in Google searches for help during the ongoing nationwide shutdown of non-essential services to curb the spread of COVID-19.
Women’s Safety, a domestic violence charity in Australia’s most populous New South Wales state, has reported that more than 40 percent of workers had seen an increase in client numbers, with over a third of cases directly linked to the virus outbreak.
In neighboring Victoria, women’s support service Wayss said police requests for assistance with cases had almost doubled in the past week, as they dealt with a form of abuse ”not experienced before”.
The government is also increasing funding for online mental health services, telephone medical consultations and emergency food relief in response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has left many people largely confined to their homes.
Australia has recorded almost 4,000 cases of COVID-19, with the death toll rising to 16 on Sunday.
Virus-affected cruise ship to pass through Panama Canal
Panama’s government on Saturday gave permission to a cruise ship on which four passengers have died to travel through its canal, a day after blocking the liner over coronavirus fears.
The government said it decided to allow the ship to pass ”to provide humanitarian help” but stressed that ”no passenger or member of crew can disembark on Panamanian soil.”
The Zaandam cruise ship has been stranded at sea since March 14 after several South American ports refused to let it dock due to dozens of people aboard having shown flu-like symptoms.
On Friday the ship’s Dutch owner Holland America said four passengers had died and two more had tested positive for COVID-19.
Earlier Saturday, Panama’s maritime authority said healthy passengers were being evacuated from the Zaandam to another liner, the Rotterdam.
More than 130 people, both passengers and crew, have been taken ill on the Zaandam, which had more than 1,800 people on board.
”The transfer of asymptomatic passengers from the Zaandam cruise liner to the Rotterdam has begun,” the maritime authority told AFP, without giving details about the numbers.
Maritime Affairs Minister Noriel Arauz had told AFP that 401 passengers who had tested negative for COVID-19 would be allowed to leave the Zaandam.
People who were ill and those who had been in contact with them will not be transferred.
Arauz said he expects the Rotterdam to return to San Diego, where it left to come to the Zaandam’s aid with food, medicine, testing kits and medical staff.
The Zaandam is heading to Fort Lauderdale in Florida but must pass through the Panama Canal to reach it.
Authorities had denied access to the canal on Friday due to the ill people aboard, leaving it stranded in Panama’s Pacific territorial waters.