World News

World on brink of ‘hunger pandemic’ as coronavirus rages

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University say the coronavirus has now infected 2,561,044 people, and more than 176,984 are known to have died of the COVID-19 disease worldwide.

However, they say, the true scale of the pandemic is likely higher due to suspected underreporting and differing testing regimes used by the authorities around the globe.

Countries the most affected are the United States, Spain, Italy, France, and Germany.

UN warns of hunger pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic, which has brought a third of the world population under lockdown, is now threatening more than a quarter of a billion people with starvation, according to the United Nations (UN).

The World Food Program warned that the health crisis would leave 130 million people acutely hungry this year.

The UN food agency’s Executive Director David Beasley said the world was now “on the brink of a hunger pandemic” that could lead to “multiple famines of biblical proportions” within a few months if immediate action wasn’t taken.

The following is the latest on the coronavirus pandemic:

China reports 30 new cases

China reported 30 new coronavirus cases in the mainland on Wednesday, 23 of which involved travelers returning to the county from overseas.

The number was up from 11 a day earlier.

Meanwhile, the Chinese northern city of Harbin banned non-locals and non-locally registered vehicles from entering residential zones to prevent the further spread of the disease, according to the local media.

Authorities said the capital of Heilongjiang Province was grappling with an outbreak caused by infected Chinese travelers returning home from neighboring Russia.

People arriving in the city from outside China or entering the city from key epidemic areas are required to be isolated.

China’s National Health Commission has reported a total of 82,788 cases of infection to date in mainland China, and 4,632 deaths.

Japan detects 33 positive cases on Italian cruise ship

Japan has detected 33 positive COVID-19 cases on an Italian cruise ship that was docked for repair in Nagasaki Prefecture, officials said Wednesday.

The ship, Costa Atlantica, has 623 crew members and no passengers.

Those infected with the virus will be transferred to medical institutions, according to Nagasaki Governor Hodo Nakamura.

He said those who tested positive but were asymptomatic would remain on board for monitoring, but those with negative test results would be sent back to their home countries.

Japan has reported a total number of 11,512 confirmed cases, along with 281 deaths as of Tuesday.

Foreign travelers from at least 100 countries are banned from entering Japan until at least the end of April.

8 babies test positive at Japanese care home

Later in the day, a Japanese care home for infants said eight babies had been found infected with the coronavirus.

None of the eight children were showing major symptoms such as fever, but they had been hospitalized, said a spokeswoman at the Saiseikai Central Hospital.

The institution started testing all 29 children for the respiratory illness after one of its staff members tested positive in mid-April.

A face mask-clad shrine worker sweeps the ground before a Shinto ritual during the annual spring festival at the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo, Japan, on April 22, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Singapore extends restrictions for 4 weeks

Singapore registered 1,111 new confirmed cases for a second day running on Tuesday, taking the total figure to 9,125.

Health official said the vast majority of the new cases involved foreign workers living in dormitories. The South Asian country relies on foreign workers in its construction sector.

To stem the spread of the disease in the country, Singapore has extended partial lockdown measures for another four weeks.

Singapore, now having the highest number of COVID-19 cases in Southeast Asia, has reported only 11 fatalities so far.

Meanwhile, many countries around the world are cautiously starting to ease some restrictions to minimize the economic impact of the pandemic, including Italy — the third worst-affected nation after the US.

Italy set to ease some restrictions

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says his government is likely to start easing lockdown measures from May 4.

Health officials said on Tuesday that another 534 patients had lost their lives over the last 24 hours.

The figure brought the total fatalities in Italy to 24,648, while more than 180,000 infections are reported across the Mediterranean country.

Cemetery workers wearing protective gear bury an unclaimed COVID-19 victim at a municipal cemetery in Tijuana, Baja California State, Mexico, on April 21, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Spain to allow children to leave home

Spain, the second worst-affected country in the world, is also set to allow children to go outside for walks from next weekend, as part of plans to ease restrictions.

Health Minister Salvador Illa said young children — currently banned from leaving home under any circumstances — would be allowed to accompany their parents on essential trips such as to buy food or medicine from Sunday.

The government has also allowed some businesses to reopen, but millions of people will have to be confined to their homes for now.

At least 21,282 people have died of COVID-19 and 204,178 others are currently infected with the coronavirus in Spain.

France to reopen schools

France is also planning to lift confinement measures starting from May 11, allowing children to return to schools.

Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer, however, said classes would be split in small groups of no more than 15 students.

The country has recorded at least 20,796 deaths, and some 158,050 people are currently hospitalized with the viral infection.

A teacher sits next to a bottle spray of hydroalcoholic solution as she gives class to students at the Lycee Laperousse School, in Noumea, on the French Pacific island of New Caledonia, on April 22, 2020. (Photo by AFP)

Germany allows shops to reopen

German authorities have allowed shops up to 800 square meters as well as car and bicycle dealers and bookstores to reopen this week.

Schools will reopen in two weeks.

The country has the fifth highest number of infections in the world at 141,672. Fatalities stand at 4,404.

Dutch children to resume sport training

The Netherlands has decided to cautiously allow primary school children to return to their classrooms part-time beginning on May 11, while high school students have been told to prepare for returning to schools on June 2.

Children will also be allowed to take part in sport training from April 29.

A ban on large scale events has been extended, though.

Officials have reported 3,916 deaths and a total of 34,134 cases of infection across the Netherlands.

Russia reports over 5,200 cases in one day

The new coronavirus has infected 5,236 people over the past 24 hours in Russia, according to the Russian coronavirus crisis response center.

This brings the nationwide tally to 57,999.

Meanwhile, a new hospital, built over a month to treat coronavirus patients in Moscow, started receiving patients on Tuesday.

The hospital admitted 20 patients in the day, according to the office of Moscow’s mayor.

Serbia’s elderly allowed to leave home

Serbia has now allowed people over 65 years of age to go out for a walk three times a week.

The rest of the population, however, has to stay at home to keep the elderly residents safe, official said.

Serbia has reported 6,890 cases of infection and 130 deaths from the highly contagious respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.

Mexico entering ‘most serious’ phase

In North America, Mexico reported a jump in the number of its confirmed cases, as more than 700 people tested positive for the virus on Tuesday.

That brought the total number of infections to 9,501 cases, according to the Mexican Health Ministry.

Reported deaths also stand at 857, an increase of 145 from the previous day.

Mexico is now “in the phase of rapid spread, where a large number of infections and hospitalizations are accumulated,” said Deputy Health Minister Hugo Lopez-Gatell.

Brazil’s toll keeps rising, president resists lockdown

Brazil’s death toll rose to 2,741 as of Tuesday, but President Jair Bolsonaro was still resisting lockdown measures, describing the contagious disease as a “little flu.”

Saudi king approves performing of night prayers in two holy mosques

Saudi King Salman has approved performing Tarawih prayers for the holy month of Ramadan at the two holy mosques in Mecca and Medina.

The Presidency of the Two Holy Mosques’ Affairs said in a statement on Wednesday that the king approved the special ritual prayers in the two mosques.

The kingdom plans to ease curfew hours during the upcoming holy month to allow people more time to shop for essential needs within the boundaries of their neighborhoods.

Turkey cases nears 100,000

Turkey has confirmed 119 more deaths caused by the respiratory illness over the past 24 hours, officials said Tuesday, bringing the nationwide toll to 2,259.

The total number of confirmed cases also surged to 95,591, as 4,611 more people tested positive for the virus, said the Turkish Health Ministry.

President Tayyip Erdogan said the curve of the outbreak was starting to reach a plateau in his country and that his government was planning to ease restrictions in late May.

“We aim to achieve maximum observance of measures during the month of Ramadan and, God willing, a transition to normal life for our country after the holiday, he said, referring to the end of the holy month of Ramadan.

The country has adopted increasingly tight measures to fight the pandemic.

Lebanon to test refugees in camp for virus

Lebanon will send a team to a refugee camp for coronavirus testing, after a resident was found to have been infected there.

A Palestinian refugee from Syria was confirmed to be infected at the Wavel refugee camp in Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley.

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said the patient was sent to a hospital in the capital, Beirut, for treatment.

Lebanon’s Health Ministry recorded no new cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday.

The total figure of cases in the county stands at 677, along with 21 deaths.

Morocco reports 68 cases in prison

In a prison in southern Morocco, at least 68 people have been diagnosed with COVID-19, prison authorities said Tuesday.

Those infected were mostly staff, they said, without reporting any deaths.

The North African county has confirmed 3,206 cases of infection and 145 deaths.

The country is currently under lockdown until May 20.

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