Global COVID-19 Deaths Pass 70,000; More Nations Emerge as Hot Spots

Health minister Robert Speranza said it’s too early to say when the lockdown will be lifted, but he envisioned a “phase two” in which restrictions could begin to be eased. Social distancing would remain, with wider use of protection such as face masks, and health systems would be better equipped to more quickly diagnose and manage COVID-19. Testing and contact tracing would be expanded, possibly with help from phone apps, and a network of hospitals would be reserved to treat those with COVID-19.

Meanwhile, cases are still rising in other parts of Europe, including France, which reported 833 more deaths in hospitals and nursing homes, its highest 1-day fatality count, France 24 reported. Health minister Olivier Veran was quoted as saying that France has not reached the end of the epidemic’s ascent.

And Turkey, an emerging hot spot, reported 3,148 new cases yesterday, giving it the sixth highest case total in Europe. Based on surging case numbers, the country announced strict new measures such as mandatory use of face masks on public transport, at markets, and in public spaces, according to a BBC report. However, the country hasn’t announced a lockdown, despite calls from medical groups to do so.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who tested positive for the virus about 11 days ago, was moved to the ICU yesterday due to worsening symptoms after he was hospitalized for persistent symptoms yesterday, according to a separate BBC report.

Japan Weighs Emergency Declaration
Japan’s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, signaled yesterday that he would declare a state of emergency as soon as tomorrow, due to expanding transmission and quickly rising case numbers in Tokyo, Kyodo News reported yesterday. However, he said he isn’t likely to order a lockdown.

In a related development, Japan’s emergency measures are expected to include the stockpiling of the antiviral drug favipiravir, enough for 2 million people, Asahi Shimbun reported. The country’s health ministry yesterday reported 383 more cases, 5 of them from airport quarantine.

Elsewhere in Asia:

·  Singapore reported 66 new cases, all but one of them locally acquired. Links to other known cases were found for 35 of them, according to the health ministry.

·  South Korea reported 47 more cases, at least 8 part of hospital clusters and 8 linked to nursing homes, Korea Centers for Disease Control said in an update.

·  China has 39 new cases yesterday, 38 imported and 1 local from Guangdong province. In addition, they have 78 asymptomatic cases, 40 of them imported, according to the National Health Commission.

Surging Cases Shake India’s Health System
In India, where cases have quadrupled in a week, there are increasing reports that the outbreak is overwhelming the health system, with some older patients turned away from hospitals and halts to outpatient care threatening the treatment of tuberculosis patients, the Los Angeles Times reported. Yesterday the country reported 489 more cases, raising its total to 4,778.