6,00,000 confirmed coronavirus cases: Over 1 lakh cases in the US and Italy's death toll crossed 9,100
At last count, India had 873 confirmed cases, with around 149 new cases in the last 24 hours.
Over 6,00,000 people have now been infected by COVID-19 across the world. Transmission is on the rise; the time taken to infect the next 100,000 has been rapidly decreasing. At last count, 27,365 patients have lost their lives.
The US now has the largest number of cases by far at over 1,04,000 people infected.
As hospitals are pushed to the limit, various governments are converting public buildings into hospitals, mobilizing armies to help with containment and logistics, and international aid agencies are working to gather resources and plan interventions in vulnerable areas such as refugee camps and war-torn countries.
Iran, the most affected Mideast country with over 32,300 cases and over 3,250 deaths, has another crisis on its hands: over 300 people have died and more than 1,000 sickened by methanol poisoning, following fake social media information that ingesting alcohol kills the virus. A popular message of a British school ingesting honey and alcohol to eliminate the virus has been especially influential. Iran bans the consumption of alcohol; methanol is mainly used for medicinal purposes such as cleaning wounds. Bootleggers sometimes disguise methanol as ethanol (the drinkable type of alcohol) leading to casualties. Districts such as Khuzestan and Fars have reported more deaths from methanol poisoning than the coronavirus itself.
Another looming crisis is that of Afghanistan. While only 110 cases have been reported so far, this number is considered to be a gross underestimation. The country shares a porous border with Iran, one of the countries that have faced a large burden of the virus. It has been reported that over 115,000 Afghans have migrated back from Iran in the first half of March, following job losses and fear due to the virus. As they make their way across Afghanistan, it is feared that there will be a surge in cases. In a country with very limited medical infrastructure, this can be disastrous.
The Indian situation
At last count, India had 873 confirmed cases, with around 149 new cases in the last 24 hours. According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, 19 people have lost their lives so far.
The sudden call to lockdown continued to challenge the supply of essential commodities across the country as borders have been shut and roads closely monitored. Thousands of migrant workers have been compelled to walk long distances back to their villages as jobs have dried up and transport services shut down.
The Kerala CM, Pinarayi Vijayan wrote to the centre to intervene in the closure of the Thalassery-Coorg highway. The road closure has affected the supply of essential goods and services to Kerala; the highway is central to the connectivity of the state.
To keep the supply of essential medical items from dwindling across the country, the centre has been dispatching cargo planes carrying equipment such as N-95 masks, gloves, and sanitizer in an attempt to keep health workers supplied.
In further concerning developments, 6 of the 9 confirmed cases in Bihar have no travel history, raising fears of community transmission. The CM of Delhi, Arvind Kejriwal said that he has been warned that community transmission is imminent and that the government was taking proactive steps to tackle an outbreak.
Italy reported a record 969 deaths on Friday, taking cases close to 86,500, becoming the second country after the US to exceed the number of cases in China. The figures are alarming and have dampened hopes of the virus having reached its peak. Lombardy remains the region with the highest caseload and fatalities. A small silver lining is that the infection rate appears to be reducing a touch, down from 8% in previous days to 7.4%.
Spain also recorded 769 deaths on Friday, a national record. With the surge, there are now over 5,100 deaths in the country, exceeding the Chinese figure of roughly 3,300. The Spanish government is also investigating Chinese test kits that had an incredibly low accuracy rate of 30% - the tests have now been withdrawn from use.
As deaths approach 2,000 in France and the number of infections swells to over 32,000, doctors in Paris warned that the hospitals in the area would reach their limits within 48 hours. Over a quarter of all cases are concentrated in the capital region, with around 1,300 people already in intensive care. Given the sharp increase in infections, the government has decided to extend the national lockdown until the 15th of April.
The Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, known as AMLO, has come under heavy criticism for his cavalier response to COVID-19 . Even as half a million people are infected globally, AMLO has continued going on political rallies, kissing supporters and encouraging Mexicans to live life, as usual, to keep the economy going. Since coming into power, AMLO has cut funding for public health infrastructure, plunging the country into a shortage of hospitals, doctors and health facilities. Experts fear that the country is fertile land for an outbreak; so far there have been just over 700 cases and over 10 deaths, but commentators suggest this is testimony to the severe lack of testing.
Russia, which had so far dodged the COVID-19 bullet, saw cases jump to over 1,000. Health officials are now scrambling to prepare the country for an outbreak. South Korea also saw a jump in cases on Friday; 146 new infections were the highest in a week. The increase was driven by imported cases from the US and Europe, triggering fears of a resurgence in the country after it had mobilized to bring down the virus initially.
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