World COVID-19 total surges past 435,000; more nations lockdown

March 25, 2020

The global COVID-19 total has passed 435,000 cases, fueled by more steep rises reported from Italy, Spain, other parts of Europe and the United States.

In other developments, more nations, including the United Kingdom and India, ordered countrywide lockdowns, and officials confirmed that the Tokyo Summer Olympics will be postponed until 2021.

Recently, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that pandemic activity was accelerating, noting that it took only four days for cases to jump from 200,000 to 300,000. It took only three days for cases to make the jump to 400,000. The total is currently over 435,000, according to the Johns Hopkins online dashboard.

As expected, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) president and Japan's prime minister issued a joint statement that said after reviewing COVID-19 developments, they concluded that the Tokyo games should be rescheduled to no later than summer 2021 to safeguard the health of athletes, everyone involved in the games and the international community. The event was expected to draw about 11,000 athletes from about 200 countries.

The IOC said the Olympic and Paralympic games next year will keep 2020 as part of the event name and that the Olympic flame will stay in Japan.

Meanwhile in Europe, after slight decreases in daily cases, Italy's number is higher, with over 5,200 cases, compared with almost 4,800 previously, according to the health ministry. A similar situation is occurring in Spain, where health officials reported over 4,500 new cases, up from about 4,300 previously.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a national stay-at-home order that will last for three weeks and be enforced by the police, affecting a population of about 66.5 million. The order closes nonessential businesses and public gathering places, and bars gatherings of more than two people, except for those who live in households and those attending funerals.

UK health officials said they are working with military planners and engineers to open a new 500-bed hospital in London next week to treat COVID-19 patients. So far, the UK has reported about 8,000 cases with almost 425 of them fatal.

In China, the government eased restrictions in most of Hubei province, which has been on lockdown for the past two months, according to the Associated Press. The exception is the city of Wuhan, China's former epicenter, where restrictions remain until April 8.

In other developments, China reported 78 new cases, including the first from Hubei province (Wuhan) in five days, according to the National Health Commission. Of the new cases, 74 were linked to international travel.

Elsewhere in Asia, some countries continue to battle resurgences, including Hong Kong, which reported 30 more cases, 19 linked to travel; Singapore, which reported 49 new cases, 17 linked to travel; and Malaysia, which reported 106 more cases.

The WHO's African regional office said COVID-19 activity is intensifying in Africa, with 12 more countries reporting their first cases over the past week, bringing the affected number of countries on the continent to 43. Also, the region reported 868 cases last week, the highest so far in a single week.

Five countries are experiencing local transmission: South Africa, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Senegal and Cameroon. All but six countries in the region have reported local infections in contacts of imported cases. The WHO said many of the cases are still linked to travel and that the region still has a window of opportunity to contain the disease.

Elsewhere, Iran reported almost 1,800 cases, up from just over 1,400 previously. The country also reported 122 more deaths, putting the death count at almost 2,000. The WHO said it has delivered another shipment of medical supplies to Iran, the seventh so far. Among the contents were lopinavir and ritonavir medications to allow health workers to treat patients enrolled in research studies that are part of a large international collaboration.

The WHO's Eastern Mediterranean regional office also said Iran's health ministry has launched a self-assessment tool that directs sick patients, if needed, to 16-hour treatment clinics that can diagnose and treat the disease, then refers patients to hospital or home care, as needed.

Also, India's President Narendra Modi has ordered a 21-day lockdown for the whole country, affecting 1.3 billion people, according to a National Public Radio (NPR) report. In an address to the people, the president warned that if the measure fails to curb the virus, it would set India back 21 years. He also pledged $2 billion to bolster the country's health system.

India has reported 536 cases with 37 of them fatal. The WHO has warned of accelerating outbreaks in South Asian countries.

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