Los Angeles: Italy has surpassed China 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 meanwhile that the United States is fast-tracking antimalarial drugs for use as a treatment and lashed out at China for not informing the world earlier about the original outbreak.
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. And 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 Thursday, taking its total to 3,405. China has officially reported 3,245 deaths from the virus, which can cause respiratory failure, particularly in the elderly.
As the toll surged in Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the national lockdown, which has been copied around Europe, would be prolonged to April 3.
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.
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, who has come under fire for his response to the crisis, charged Thursday that the world was paying for China’s lack of transparency about the outbreak there.
“It could have been contained to that one area of China where it started. And certainly the world is paying a big price for what they did,” the US president said.
Trump said US authorities were fast-tracking antimalarials 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.