Global COVID-19 total races past 1 million mark

After just 4 months, the global COVID-19 total topped the 1 million mark today, with more countries on several continents reporting exponential growth, even in some African nations.

Meanwhile, the world's number of deaths from the virus passed 50,000, with more than half of them from Europe's hot spots. The Johns Hopkins online tracker shows 1,002,159 cases and 51,485 deaths.

Europe's surge includes sharp rise in Turkey

Spain today added 6,120 cases, plus 616 more deaths, as steady activity continued in Italy, which reported 4,668 new cases and 115,242 overall, as well as 760 more deaths (13,915 total—most in the world).

In Spain, Madrid is still the main hot spot, where health officials report early signs of stabilization, El Mundo reported. Though the virus is spreading to all parts of Spain, areas with the most cases include Catalonia, Castile-La Mancha region in central Spain, and Castile and Leon in the northwest.

The United Kingdom today reported 4,244 more cases, along with 569 more deaths, marking its highest daily death total. Paul Hunter, MD, an infectious disease expert at the University of East Anglia, told the Guardian newspaper that that the pace of COVID-19 activity in Britain is about 2 weeks behind Italy's.

France today reported 2,116 new cases, as well as 1,355 more deaths, with the large number of deaths reflecting 884 that have previously occurred in nursing homes, the country's chief medical adviser said today at a briefing, France24 reported. So far, the country has reported 5,387 deaths.

Turkey today reported another steep rise, with 2,456 new cases, raising its total to 18,135 in just 3 weeks. Experts quoted in an Al Jazeera story today said European travel and Muslim pilgrimages have fueled the country's rise, and though the country closed borders and limited flights, it hasn't yet ordered a lockdown.

About 60% of the cases are in Istanbul, which is home to about a fifth of the country's population, and more than 600 healthcare workers have been infected so far. Professional groups in Turkey have criticized the country's low testing rate and lack of hospital preparedness.

Exponential growth in some African nations

Pandemic activity is increasing rapidly in Africa, up 185% from the previous week, the World Health Organization (WHO) African regional office said in its latest weekly outbreaks and health emergencies report.

Six countries are reporting exponential spread: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and South Africa. Most African countries are reporting local spread, alongside sporadic imported cases, the WHO said.

"This trend is of grave concern in a continent in which health systems are fragile, with a high prevalence of HIV and malnutrition, and an increasing incidence of noncommunicable diseases," it said.

With so many borders closed and air travel limited, countries are facing challenges with getting essential supplies and experts on the ground to battle the virus, the WHO said, adding that if the countries take bold steps to limit disease spread, including physical distancing and contact tracing, they still have a window of opportunity to contain outbreaks.

As of today, WHO African region countries have reported 6,075 cases and 214 deaths.

Appeal for Latin America, Caribbean

The WHO's Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) today appealed to donors for $95 million to help Latin American and Caribbean countries battle the COVID-19 pandemic.

PAHO Director Carissa Etienne, MD, warned that pandemic activity is accelerating in the region. "This new virus has shown that it can overload health services even in the most developed countries. We need to invest more to protect the most vulnerable, including health workers, and to save lives," she said.

Brazil reported the first known case in South America on Feb 26, and since then, the virus has spread to 48 other countries in that part of the world, though the United States accounts for 86% of cases.

Brazil reported 1,138 new cases yesterday, up 25% from the previous day, and 41 more deaths, up 26% from the day before, PAHO said. The country now has 7,910 cases and 299 deaths.

Other global developments

Iran today reported 2,875 more cases and 124 more deaths, putting its respective totals at 50,469 and 3,160.

  • The Philippines today reported 332 more cases, raising its total to 2,633. President Rodrigo Duterte yesterday in an address to the nation warned that anyone breaking the lockdown on the island of Luzon may be shot, Newsweek He warned that the outbreak was getting worse, and, according to the report, his warning came in the wake of protests in the poor part of Manila over lack of government food aid.

  • In Asia, Japan reported 202 more cases, 28 of them involving asymptomatic carriers; South Korea reported 89 more cases; Singapore reported 49 new cases, 8 of them imported; and Hong Kong reported 37 more patients, 30 of them with a travel history.

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