Italy on Friday recorded the most daily deaths of any country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic and Spain had its deadliest day, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first major world leader to test positive.
Italian officials reported 969 new deaths and Spain 769, as Europe reeled from a crisis that has put millions at risk around the world and threatened a global economic meltdown.
In other grim milestones, AFP tallies showed a total of 300,000 cases now recorded in Europe with more than 25,000 deaths worldwide, and the United States overtook China as the country with the most infections. Italy showed infection rates continuing a downward trend and Spain said its rate of new infections appeared to be slowing, but other countries were bracing to feel the full impact of the virus’s spread.
The World Health Organisation’s regional director for Africa warned the continent faced a “dramatic evolution” of the pandemic, as South Africa became the latest nation to start life under lockdown and reported its first COVID-19 deaths.
The two men leading Britain’s fight against the coronavirus – Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Health Secretary Matt Hancock – both announced Friday they had tested positive for Covid-19, as infection rates accelerated and daily death rate rose sharply.
Johnson said he began feeling unwell on Thursday and was tested on the personal advice of England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty.
Johnson, whose country has seen more than 14,000 declared coronavirus cases and 759 deaths, said he had developed mild symptoms over the previous 24 hours and was self-isolating after testing positive.
Johnson, 55, announced the diagnosis in a video message on his 10 Downing Street Twitter account: “Over the last 24 hours I have developed mild symptoms and tested positive for coronavirus.
“I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus,” he said.
Coronavirus cases in Latin America surpassed 10,000 on Friday, according to an AFP count based on official government and World Health Organisation figures.
The first case in Latin America was reported on February 26 in Brazil, which has become the regional epicentre of the pandemic with almost 3,000 cases and 77 deaths. Overall, there have been 182 deaths from Covid-19 in Latin America and almost 10,500 cases, as of Friday morning.
The worst affected countries after Brazil are Chile with more than 1,600 cases and Ecuador with over 1,400. However, while Chile has suffered five deaths, there have been 34 in Ecuador.
Over the last week, Latin American countries have been reinforcing their measures to combat the outbreak. As well as Argentina, Bolivia, Colombia, El Salvador, Panama and Venezuela are in complete lockdown.
Guatemala, Honduras and Peru have imposed night time curfews and closed their borders to foreigners.