WHO: Europe now world's COVID-19 epicenter

Italian officials making announcement
Italian officials making announcement

Ajuntament de Valencia / Flickr cc

The World Health Organization (WHO) said today that Europe is now the world's COVID-19 pandemic epicenter, as cases in Italy and other nations on the continent soared, and as the WHO launched a new fundraising effort designed to expand donations from individuals and businesses to support the response.

At a media briefing today, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said global deaths from the novel coronavirus have reached 5,000, most of which are from China. But Europe is now reporting more cases and deaths than the rest of the world combined, except for China.

"More cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic," he said, urging countries to take a comprehensive approach that doesn't rely on testing, contact tracing, or social distancing alone.

Tedros warned that when countries observe what's happening in other countries and think it won't happen in their countries are making a deadly mistake. "It can happen to any country."

In another development, he announced the launch of the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund, which includes partners from the United Nations Foundation and the Swiss Philanthropy Foundation. It will allow individuals and organizations to contribute.

"Until now, we have been relying mainly on governments to support the response," he said, adding that funds will be use to coordinate the response, buy equipment for healthcare workers, improve surveillance, and invest in research. "Now everyone can contribute."

Italy: 2,500 new cases, 250 new deaths

Italy today reported 2,547 new cases and 250 more deaths, boosting its respective totals to 17,770 cases and 1,255 deaths.

In Spain, which has the second highest total in Europe, the health ministry reported 1,063 new cases and 53 additional deaths, raising its totals to 4,209 cases, 120 of them fatal. Health officials announced the first lockdown for Spain, which affects four towns near Barcelona and 60,000 people, the Associated Press reported. Shortly after, the southeastern region of Murica also announced a lockdown. Hospitals are rapidly filling in Madrid, and government officials in the region today said the city is short on medical supplies.

Spain is expected to announce a state of emergency tomorrow, which would last at least 15 days, Business Insider reported.

Meanwhile, France reported 785 new cases and 18 more deaths, pushing its respective totals to 3,661 and 79. The French government today banned gatherings of more than 100 people, and two top tourist attractions—The Louvre and the Palace of Versailles—announced they were closed until further notice, Reuters reported. French officials have warned that the country is facing in Italy scenario, and though the country has shuttered schools, but has not called off nationwide local elections slated for Mar 15 and Mar 22, according to the Financial Times.

Elsewhere in Europe, the WHO's online COVID-19 dashboard shows that Germany has 2,860 cases, and several others have topped 600 cases. For example, the United Kingdom today reported 208 new cases and 2 more deaths, lifting its respective totals to 798 cases, 10 of them fatal.

More cases in South Korea, other Asian nations

The pace of new infections in South Korea continues to slow, with 110 more, plus 1 more death, reported today by the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The country's respective total is now 7,979, including 67 deaths.

In other Asian developments:

  • Japan today reported 8 more cases, raising its total to 684, 26 of them fatal. The country's hardest hit areas are Hokkaido, Aichi, and Osaka prefectures.

  • Singapore today reported 13 more cases, raising its total to 200. One is part of a dinner party cluster, nine are imported cases, two are linked to earlier cases, and an exposure source is unknown for one, according to the country's health ministry.

  • China today reported 8 new cases, 5 from Hubei province and 3 imported, according to the National Health Commission. The country's total is now at 80,813 cases, 3,176 of them fatal.

Developments in Iran, Africa

Iran, another main pandemic hot spot, today reported 1,289 cases and 85 more deaths, boosting its total to 11,364 cases, 514 of them fatal.

The country announced several new measures to curb the spread of the virus, including clearing the streets of people checking all citizens for the virus over the next 10 days, the South China Morning Post reported. Top officials also ordered the military to lead the effort.

In Africa, Kenya reported its first case, which involves a citizen who had traveled to the United States, the WHO's African regional office said on Twitter today. So far, 15 countries in the region have reported cases.

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