Number of global virus cases tops 16 million

By: AFP      Published: 11:28 AM, 26 Jul, 2020
Number of global virus cases tops 16 million
A youngster has the temperature checked at El Chopo flea market in Mexico City amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.–AFP

The global number of coronavirus cases crossed 16 million on Sunday, more than half of them in the Americas and the Caribbean, according to an AFP tally from official sources at 0510 GMT.

The 16,050,223 cases include 645,184 fatalities with the United States the worst-hit country, registering 4,178,021 cases and 146,460 dead. Europe has 3,052,108 cases and 207,734 dead.

The spread of the pandemic continues to accelerate and more than five million cases have been declared since July 1.

The United States on Saturday recorded 68,212 new coronavirus cases in the previous 24 hours, Johns Hopkins University reported in its real-time tally. That brought the total number of cases in the world's hardest-hit country to 4,174,437, the Baltimore-based university said at 8:30 pm (0030 Sunday).

Another 1,067 deaths were reported, bringing the country's total fatalities to 146,391.

After a drop in the rate of infections in late spring, the US has seen a coronavirus surge, particularly in southern and western states like California, Texas, Alabama and Florida. For the past 12 days, the number of new cases being reported each day has topped 60,000.

Scientists agree that an increase in death rates follows the spike in infections by three to four weeks. The daily death toll for the past four days has exceeded 1,000.

Australia suffers deadliest day

Australia has suffered its deadliest day from the coronavirus since the pandemic began, with authorities reporting ten fatalities Sunday and a rise in new infections despite an intensive lockdown effort.

The country's COVID-19 death toll rose to 155 and the southeastern state of Victoria reported more than 450 new infections in the last 24 hours.

A clearly concerned Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said ten people aged between their 40s and 80s had died, of which seven deaths were linked to outbreaks in aged care facilities.

It is the worst loss of life from the virus in Australia since the disease first emerged, according to a tally compiled by AFP.

Australia has dodged the worst ravages of the pandemic so far, logging just 14,000 cases in total -- fewer than many harder-hit countries see in one day.

But a second wave of infections is testing the nation's much-lauded response to the contagion.

The number of new cases has remained stubbornly high in recent days despite five million people in greater Melbourne spending the last two weeks in lockdown.

Masks are mandatory in the city and Victoria is virtually sealed off from the rest of the country.

Police and the military are guarding state borders and visiting homes to enforce quarantine orders.

Still, 459 fresh cases were reported in Victoria on Sunday -- up from 357 on Saturday. Around a dozen more were recorded in other parts of Australia.

"These things change rapidly, but we have to say these numbers are far too high," Andrews said.

North Korea declares emergency over suspected virus case

North Korean authorities have imposed a lockdown on the border city of Kaesong after discovering what they say is the country's first suspected coronavirus case, state media reported Sunday.

Leader Kim Jong Un convened an emergency politburo meeting on Saturday to implement a "maximum emergency system and issue a top-class alert" to contain the virus, official news agency KCNA said.

If confirmed, it would be the first officially recognised case of COVID-19 in North Korea, where medical infrastructure is seen as woefully inadequate to deal with any epidemic.

KCNA said a defector who had left for South Korea three years ago returned on July 19 after "illegally crossing" the heavily fortified border dividing the two countries.

But there have been no reports in the South of anyone leaving through what is one of the world's most secure borders, replete with minefields and guard posts.

Pyongyang previously insisted that not a single case of the coronavirus had been seen in the North despite the illness having swept the globe, and the country's borders remain closed.

The patient was found in Kaesong City, which borders South Korea, and "was put under strict quarantine", as would any close contacts, KCNA said.

It was a "dangerous situation... that may lead to a deadly and destructive disaster", the media outlet added.

Kim was quoted as saying "the vicious virus could be said to have entered the country", and officials on Friday took the "preemptive measure of totally blocking Kaesong City".

Nuclear-armed North Korea closed its borders in late January as the virus spread in neighbouring China.

It imposed tough restrictions that put thousands of people into isolation, but analysts say the isolated state is unlikely to have avoided the contagion.

- Porous border -

China and North Korea share a 1,400-kilometre (880-mile) border that is especially porous during the winter, when frozen rivers allow people to cross more easily in and out of the two countries.

Dozens of North Koreans cross the border to smuggle black market goods every day and analysts have said they may have carried the virus into the isolated country before the borders were closed.

"There's no question the coronavirus in the North is imported from China," said Go Myong-hyun, an analyst at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, noting the heavy border traffic and China's high total number of cases.

But Pyongyang was singling out the case from the South to highlight defectors as "dangerous beings", Go said, as the North ramps up pressure against Seoul.

South Korea is currently recording around 40 to 60 new infections a day, with most of them imported cases.

Earlier this month Kim warned against any "hasty" relaxation of anti-coronavirus measures, indicating the country would keep its borders closed for the foreseeable future.