Global virus deaths surge past 13,000 as one billion confined to homes, Latest World News - The New Paper

Global virus deaths surge past 13,000 as one billion confined to homes

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As virus spreads and Europe reels, 35 countries have ordered people to stay home

ROME: Nearly one billion people around the world were confined to their homes yesterday, as the coronavirus death toll crossed 13,000 and factories were shut in Italy, the country worst hit by the pandemic, yet again posting a record in single-day fatalities of almost 800 on Saturday.

The raging pandemic has forced lockdowns in 35 countries across the globe, disrupting lives, travel and businesses as governments scramble to shut borders and unleash stimulus packages worth hundreds of billions of dollars to avoid a widespread virus-fuelled economic meltdown.

More than 300,000 infections have been confirmed worldwide, with the situation increasingly grim in Italy where the death toll spiked to more than 4,800 - over a third of the global total.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the closure of all non-essential factories in a late-night TV address on Saturday.

The Mediterranean nation of 60 million is now the epicentre of the disease, which first emerged in central China late last year before spreading to the rest of the world.

Italy has now reported more deaths than mainland China and third-placed Iran combined, and it has a death rate of 8.6 per cent among confirmed Covid-19 infections - higher than in most other countries.

The number of deaths and infections has continued to rise, especially in Europe - the main global hotspot.

Spain reported a 32 per cent spike in new deaths on Saturday, and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned in a TV address that the nation needs to prepare for "very hard days ahead".

Fatalities in France jumped to 562 as police officials said helicopters and drones were being deployed to boost the government's attempts to keep people in their homes.

France, Italy, Spain and other European countries have ordered people to stay at home, threatening fines in some cases, while Australia yesterday told citizens to cancel domestic travel plans.

The pandemic has bludgeoned global stock markets, and the US - the world's biggest economy - is preparing a huge emergency stimulus package that could top US$1 trillion (S$1.45 trillion).

More than a third of Americans were adjusting to life in various phases of lockdown, including in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles - the three biggest US cities. Other parts of the US are expected to ramp up restrictions as well.

Australia ordered pubs, cinemas, churches and casinos to close and two more states said yesterday they would shut their borders.

In the Middle East, Iran's death toll hit 1,685 with 129 deaths yesterday, the health ministrysaid, adding the total number infected had reached 21,638. - AFP, REUTERS