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Coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep across globe: Death toll near 70,000

The global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has now reached 69,498, and 1,275,542 people are diagnosed with the viral infection around the globe, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

The pandemic has also prompted many countries to ban large gatherings and enforce obligatory social distancing, confining billions of people to their homes and making it impossible for many businesses to continue.

Here are the latest related developments from across the globe.

Spain’s outbreak slowing down

Spain’s death toll rose by 674 on Sunday to 12,641, according to officials, who said it was down from Saturday’s 809 and well below Thursday’s record of 950.

The country’s positive cases rose by 6,023 to 131,646 on Sunday, the Health Ministry said.

“The data from this week and today confirms the slowing down of infections,” Health Minister Salvador Illa told a news conference. “The data confirms that confinement is working.”

Meanwhile, government ministers warned that it was too early to say when the country could start lifting its lockdown on public life.

Spain began its fourth week under a near-total lockdown on Monday.

Italy’s curve descending

Italy, the worst-hit country in the world, reported its lowest daily death toll in more than two weeks on Sunday.

Health officials reported 525 deaths from the disease on Sunday, which was the smallest daily increase since the epidemic broke out in northern Italy about six weeks ago.

The number of patients in badly stretched intensive care units also fell for a second day running on Sunday.

The total number of positive cases of COVID-19 rose by 4,316 to 128,948, the lowest increase in five days.

“The curve has reached a plateau and begun to descend,” said Silvio Brusaferro, the head of the Istituto Superiore di Sanita, Italy’s top health institute.

“If this is confirmed, we need to start thinking about the second phase and keep down the spread of this disease,” he added.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza, however, said it was too early to say when the national lockdown could be lifted. He said that the lockdown, which has strictly limited people’s movements and frozen all non-essential economic activity, would officially last until at least April 13.

It is widely expected to be extended then, as well, he said.

Germany reports drop in daily tally again

Germany confirmed on Monday that its cases of coronavirus infection had risen by 3,677 in the past 24 hours to 100,123.

That was the fourth straight drop in the daily numbers of new cases, according to data from the Robert Koch Institute for infectious diseases.

The reported death toll rose by 92 to 1,584.

Netherlands’ death toll hits 1,776

Health officials in the Netherlands said 115 people died of the illness on Sunday, bringing the country’s total toll to 1,766.

Confirmed cases of COVID-19 also went up by 1,224 to 17,953.

South Korea’s daily increase lowest since virus peak

In Asia, South Korea reported 47 new infections on Monday. It was the lowest daily number of cases reported in the country since February, when it became the second hotspot of the disease after China.

Health officials reported three additional deaths on Monday.

South Korea has reported a total of 10,284 positive cases and 186 deaths, according to data from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

UK PM admitted to hospital over symptoms

In the United Kingdom, nearly 47,800 have tested positive for the virus and more than 4,900 have died so far.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister Boris Jonshon was admitted to hospital for tests on Sunday in what Downing Street said was a “precautionary step” because he was showing persistent symptoms of the coronavirus 10 days after testing positive for it.

US death toll tops 9,600

The coronavirus has so far affected more than 336,000 people in the United States and killed over 9,600.

But the New York Times said in a report that hospital officials, public health experts and medical examiners were of the opinion that official counts did not represent the true number of American fatalities. “The undercount is a result of inconsistent protocols, limited resources and a patchwork of decision-making from one state or county to the next,” the paper said.

Meanwhile, President Donald Trump expressed hope on Sunday that the US was seeing a “leveling-off” of the coronavirus crisis in some of the nation’s hot spots. He said that Americans were starting to see “the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Barbados complains US seized ventilators

The government of Barbados says the United States has seized a consignment of medical equipment Bridgetwon had ordered and paid for.

The shipment of 20 ventilators “were seized in the United States. Paid for, but seized, so we are trying to see exactly what is going to transpire there,” Minister of Health and Wellness Jeffrey Bostic told reporters at a press conference.

China reports 39 new cases

China reported 39 new cases of COVID-19 on Monday, according to the National Health Commission (NHC), which said most of the cases had been imported.

There were also 78 new asymptomatic cases, where people tested positive for the virus but did not show any symptoms.

There have been a total number 81,700 confirmed cases in mainland China since the disease first emerged there in late December.

Over 77,000 people have recovered, and 3,331 have people succumbed to the respiratory illness caused by the new virus.

Japan to declare state of emergency

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will declare a state of emergency in the capital, Tokyo, and other major cities, on Tuesday, local media reported Monday.

He will give his governors stronger legal authority to urge people to stay home and businesses to close.

A total number of 3, 654 cases have been diagnosed in South Korea, including 1,000 cases in Tokyo. The country has also reported 85 deaths.

Singapore quarantines almost 20,000 foreign workers

Singapore has quarantined around 19,800 foreign workers already housed in two dormitories for 14 days, the Health Ministry said on Monday.

It said the decision had been made after the number of positive cases grew in those places.

The South-Asian nation has reported 1,309 cases of infection, along with six deaths.

Over 20,000 Pakistanis stuck in UAE ask to return home

More than 20,000 Pakistani workers stuck in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have registered to return home, amid restrictive measures in the Persian Gulf country.

The UAE, which has reported 1,799 cases and 10 deaths, has imposed a nationwide curfew and suspended passenger flights.

Over 20,000 Pakistanis have since registered with the Pakistani consulate to go home, according to a consulate spokesman. Authorities in Pakistan were in talks with their UAE counterparts to try to arrange flights so that the workers could return, the spokesman said.

More than one million Pakistanis live and work in the UAE, according to Pakistani diplomats.

Australia’s daily figure goes down

Australia said its infection growth rate had fallen from about 25 percent and 30 percent to around five percent.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said that was happening because more people were self-isolating during the epidemic.

The government has stepped up containment measures, including restricting nonessential outings and closing borders and most public places.

Australia has reported 5,687 positive cases and 35 deaths so far.

Meanwhile, Australian healthcare workers complain about the lack of proper respiratory face masks.

Doctors and nurses say they struggle to obtain N95 respiratory face masks even though people walking down the streets can be seen wearing them.

“If you go into the community, you see on the faces of a lot of people the N95 masks and not enough in the hospital,” said an emergency doctor in the state of New South Wales (NSW).

Authorities have reportedly assured emergency doctors and healthcare workers that they will be provided with masks and other personal protective equipment (PPE). But staff in some strained hospitals are facing tight restrictions on the use of N95 masks.

New Zealand sticks to restriction

New Zealand will stick to restrictive measures even though some early signs show that the spread of the illness has been stabilizing, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday.

Her government registered 67 new infections — the lowest figure in five days — on Sunday, taking the country’s tally to just over 1,100.

New Zealand has reported one death from the epidemic.

The country started a four-week total lockdown of its population of about five million late last month. It also declared a national emergency to slow the spread of the virus.

Under the restrictive measures, people will be allowed to take walks or go to supermarkets for essentials but they are required to stay two meters apart from one another. People have also been told to stay home, and all non-essential services, schools, and offices will be shut for a month, amid warnings that offenders face large fines and even jail.

New Zealand has so far had fewer positive cases of COVID-19 than many other countries.

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