Italy becomes third country to top 30,000 Covid-19 deaths

White crosses delimiting the areas for new burials are scattered at the Maggiore cemetery in Milan, Italy, Friday, May 8, 2020. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

By AP for Lolwe digital

Italy on Friday became the third country to record more than 30,000 deaths from the coronavirus, with only Britain and the United States reporting more.

Italy said there were 243 new fatalities Friday, which is considerably lower than the more than 900 deaths per day that were being recorded at the end of March.

In Spain, Madrid and Barcelona announced they would not progress to the next phase of easing their coronavirus lockdowns along with the rest of the country because infection rates were still too high.

The provinces of Madrid and Catalonia, whose capital is Barcelona, account for nearly half of Spain’s nearly 223,000 cases of coronavirus infection.

Throughout Europe, countries observed the 75th anniversary of the end of World War Two in subdued fashion due to the coronavirus pandemic. Public events were canceled, and Europeans were advised to celebrate at home.

Queen Elizabeth II made a rare televised address that combined the themes of the war and the coronavirus.

“When I look at our country today and see what we are willing to do to protect and support one another, I say with pride that we are still a nation those brave soldiers, sailors and airmen would recognize and admire,” she said.

Britons were encouraged to have a toast during historic rebroadcasts of Winston Churchill. In France, President Emmanuel Macron oversaw ceremonies without throngs of people.

‘The virus of hate’

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres warned Friday that the coronavirus pandemic continues to provoke hatred throughout the world and called for a global effort to combat the trend.

“We need every ounce of solidarity to tackle (the pandemic) together,” the secretary-general said. “Yet the pandemic continues to unleash a tsunami of hate and xenophobia, scapegoating and scare-mongering.”

Guterres said, “Anti-foreigner sentiment has surged online and in the streets. Anti-Semitic conspiracy theories have spread, and COVID-19-related anti-Muslim attacks have occurred.”

The U.N. leader noted that “migrants and refugees have been vilified as a source of the virus – and then denied access to medical treatment.”

Guterres urged political leaders, educational institutions, the media and “civil society” to “act now to strengthen the immunity of our societies against the virus of hate.”

In India, authorities in the southern state of Karnataka resumed train service Friday to transport migrant workers home following protests over the plight of stranded workers and reports of deaths among the thousands walking home after losing their jobs during India’s strict lockdown.

The resumption of train service coincided with an accident in western Maharashtra state where a train killed 14 migrant workers who were sleeping on a track before resuming the trek back to their villages.

‘Deaths of despair’

As the COVID-19 death toll continues to climb in the U.S., 75,000 more Americans could die from drug or alcohol abuse and suicide because of the pandemic, according to research by the public health group Well Being Trust.

COVID-19 has already claimed the lives of more than 77,000 people in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University, the most in the world by far. Friday’s news that the U.S. jobless rate soared to its highest level since the Great Depression of the 1920s threatens to hasten “deaths of despair,” the group said.

The U.S. continues to also lead the world in COVID-19 infections, with 1.28 million, and a member of Vice President Mike Pence’s staff is the latest high-profile case, the White House said. The White House announced Thursday that a personal valet to President Donald Trump tested positive as well.

In Florida, the U.S. Navy’s flight demonstration squadron, the Blue Angels, honored health care workers with flyovers in Jacksonville and Boca Raton.

South Korea is urging nightclubs to shut down for a month after linking more than a dozen new coronavirus cases to a clubgoer in the capital of Seoul.

Schools were scheduled to begin reopening next week, but that may be delayed after 25 new cases were reported Friday, the country’s first increase above 10 in five days. Officials say probes into the new cases would determine the next steps.

Up to 44 million people in Africa could come down with the coronavirus and 190,000 will die if the virus is not contained, the World Health Organization has said.

A new World Health Organization report looked at 47 countries on the African continent. It said while the rates of transmission in Africa would be slower than in other parts of the world during the pandemic’s first year, COVID-19 in Africa could “smolder” for a long time in what the report called hot spots.

“COVID-19 could become a fixture in our lives for the next several years unless a proactive approach is taken by many governments in the region,” said Dr. Matshidiso Moeti, WHO Africa regional director. “We need to test, trace, isolate and treat.”

If little or nothing is done, Moeti said, the medical capacity across Africa would be “overwhelmed” and added that curbing a large-scale outbreak is far costlier than the ongoing preventive measures governments are undertaking to contain the spread of the virus.