Europe’s virus toll surges, world plunges into recession
Italy, Spain suffer record virus deaths as infection rate surges
Rome: Europe was reeling from a staggering surge in coronavirus deaths Saturday, still days or weeks from what experts desperately hope will be the epidemic’s peak.
Grim new tolls from Italy and Spain came as the IMF confirmed the world economy has plunged into a historic slump, and the US invoked wartime procurement powers.
More than 600,000 cases of the new coronavirus have been officially recorded around the world since the outbreak of the epidemic, according to an AFP tally.
Variations in testing regimes mean the true number is likely far higher still, and confirmed deaths are mounting.
Spain recorded 832 fatalities in 24 hours, bringing its toll to 5,690, second in the world only to Italy, which confirmed a one-day record of 969 on Friday.
Elsewhere, Iran announced 139 more deaths and India sealed off a dozen Punjab villages that had been visited by a guru now known to be infected and a possible "super-spreader”.
And, in South Africa, Johannesburg police resorted to rubber bullets to enforce social distancing on a crowd queueing for supplies outside a downtown supermarket during a national lockdown.
The United States now has the world’s highest single number of COVID-19 cases but per capita European nations are still the worst hit, with emergency services struggling to cope.
The European Union economy has already been disrupted by border closures and stay-at-home orders, and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte warned that the bloc could lose it legitimacy.
"If Europe does not rise to this unprecedented challenge, the whole European structure loses its raison d’etre to the people,” he told the Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper.
Italy, backed by France and Spain, wants Europe to come up with a stronger financial response to the crisis, but Germany and the Netherlands are resisting calls to pool national debts. – AFP