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US may become next centre of coronavirus pandemic, says WHO | World news


The US could become the new centre of the global coronavirus pandemic, according to the World Health Organization, which said case numbers were rising quickly there even asDonald Trump talked of reopening the country for business.

“We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the US. So it does have that potential [to become the centre of the pandemic],” said Margaret Harris, a WHO spokeswoman.

Meanwhile in India, Narendra Modi ordered a 21-day lockdown of the whole country, the world’s second most populous, after researchers warned more than 1 million people could be infected by mid-May.

“The only way to save ourselves from coronavirus is if we don’t leave our homes, whatever happens, we stay at home,” the prime minister said, who was giving his second address in less than a week to try to rally India’s 1.3 billion people to support the drastic measures.

“Every district, every lane, every village will be under lockdown. If you can’t handle these 21 days, this country will go back 21 years,” he said.

“The only option is social distancing, to remain away from each other. There is no way out to escape from coronavirus besides this.” So far India has reported 482 cases and nine deaths, but there is concern about the potential for the pandemic to spread rapidly.

In the US, 46,450 people have become infected and there have been 593 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.


Trump acknowledged that crucial healthcare supplies to protect frontline staff treating sick patients were becoming difficult to obtain.

In an early morning tweet, he said: “The world market for face masks and ventilators is crazy. We are helping the states to get equipment, but it is not easy.”


But while more US governors were urging people to stay at home, Trump appeared to play down the crisis on Monday night.

The president said he was considering ways to restart the economy in the coming weeks and wanted to avoid the pandemic becoming “a long-lasting financial problem”. It would not last as long as three or four months, he said.

“Our country was not built to be shut down,” Trump said. “This is not a country that was built for this.”

On Tuesday he tweeted: “Our people want to return to work. They will practice Social Distancing and all else, and Seniors will be watched over protectively & lovingly. We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM! Congress MUST ACT NOW. We will come back strong!”

Trump’s senior advisers referred to current government restrictions as a “15-day challenge” and pledged to revisit in a week’s time the need for sweeping measures to prevent the spread of the virus.

But senior Pentagon leaders warned on Tuesday that the US epidemic could continue for months. “I think we need to plan for this to be a few months long at least and we’re taking all precautionary measures to do that,” said the defense secretary, Mark Esper.

The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, Gen Mark Milley, said that, judging from other countries’ experiences, it could go on into July. “If it does apply, you’re looking at probably late May, June, something in that range, could be as late as July,” Milley said.

In Spain, meanwhile, the numbers infected and tested rose from 33,089 to 39,673 on Tuesday, according to the health ministry, while the death toll rose from 2,182 to 2,696.

Health workers accounted for nearly 14% of Spain’s total reported cases as of Tuesday, up from 12% the previous day, according to data presented by the health emergency chief, Fernando Simon.





Police officers stand in front of Madrid’s ice rink, which has been turned into a temporary morgue



Police officers stand in front of Madrid’s ice rink in Spain, which has been turned into a temporary morgue during the coronavirus crisis. Photograph: Manu Fern├índez/AP

The top coronavirus response official in Italy, the country with the highest death toll, attributed two successive declines in the daily death rate to a national lockdown that appeared to be finally bearing fruit. Deaths dropped from 793 on Saturday to 651 on Sunday and just over 600 on Monday.

But Angelo Borrelli also noted that the real number of infections was probably 10 times higher than the official count. He also said the nation of 60 million was on course to overtake China’s total number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in a week.

“The measures we took two weeks ago are starting to have an effect,” Borrelli said in an interview with La Repubblica. He said more data over the next few days would help officials understand “if the growth curve is really flattening”.

An estimated 1.7 billion people around the world have been ordered to remain at home as governments take extreme measures to protect their populations. Britain became the latest country to enter lockdown, after bans on movement came into force at midnight on Monday.


France entered a two-month “state of health emergency” on Tuesday that provides a legal framework for existing confinement and restrictive measures and allows the government to order further restrictions, including controlling the price of certain products and requisitioning people and property for the “war” effort.

In Germany, Angela Merkel’s cabinet presented a support package worth hundreds of billions of euros to cushion the impact of the crisis, in a departure from the country’s commitment to balance budgets. Under the rescue measures, about €50bn is to be earmarked for small businesses and self-employed workers, who are to receive direct grants of up to €15,000 over three months.

The Dutch government strengthened its containment measures, banning all public gatherings regardless of size until 1 June and empowering mayors to close beaches, parks, campsites and other public spaces if people are not respecting physical distancing rules.


How do I know if I have coronavirus and what happens next? – video explainer

In other developments:

  • South Africa reported more than 150 new cases, taking its tally to 554, the highest in Africa, a day after it ordered a three-week lockdown.

  • Thailand’s leader said he would invoke sweeping emergency powers in the face of surging infections.

  • Egypt declared a curfew from 7pm to 6am for two weeks starting on Wednesday.

  • The Tokyo Olympics were postponed until next year.

  • The Cameroonian Afro-jazz musician Manu Dibango died in Paris after catching coronavirus. Best known for his 1972 song Soul Makossa, the 86-year-old saxophonist is one of the first global stars to succumb to the disease.

  • Pakistan suspended six civil servants after they posed for a selfie with a coronavirus patient in a quarantine centre. The selfie – widely shared on social media – pictured a group of men around the apparent patient, several of them smiling broadly and none wearing face masks.

  • Ecotourism has been suspended in the Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo to protect the mountain gorillas, thought to be potentially susceptible to infection from humans.

Meanwhile, tens of millions of people living in Hubei province, the centre of China’s outbreak, were told they would be able to resume travel from midnight (1600 GMT), except in the city of Wuhan.

China claims to have largely brought its outbreak under control, reporting only imported cases of the virus and few or no new domestic cases in recent days. However, the claims have been questioned by residents and analysts, who note that some hospitals are reportedly refusing to test for the virus, and that there are allegations of manipulated numbers and rumours of unreported cases.

Additional reporting by Kim Willsher in Paris, Jennifer Rankin in Brussels and Helen Davidson in Sydney



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