- Severe cases have been reported among teens and young adults, some requiring intensive care
The number of confirmed corona-virus cases around the world has soared past one million and fatalities have topped 50,000 as the United States reported the highest daily death toll of any country so far. Despite more than half the planet living in some form of lockdown, the virus is continuing to spread rapidly and to claim lives at an alarming pace, with the US, Spain and Britain all seeing their worst days yet. The economic cost of the pandemic is getting starker by the day, with new figures showing an extra 6.65 million Americans signed on for unemployment benefits last week, taking to 10 million the number of people in the US who lost their jobs in the last two weeks of March.
And economists warned it was going to get worse.
“No words for this,” said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macro-economics.
“Total layoffs between the March and April payroll surveys look destined to reach perhaps 16 to 20 million, consistent with the unemployment rate leaping to 13 to 16 percent in one month.” Financial ratings agency Fitch on Thursday predicted that the US and eurozone economies would shrink this quarter by up to 30 percent as struggling businesses slash investment and unemployment dampens consumer spending.
The Asian Development Bank warned on Friday, the global economy could take a $4.1 trillion hit from the virus-equivalent to five percent of worldwide output.
World leaders have announced huge financial aid packages to deal with the crisis and the World Bank on Thursday approved a plan to roll out $160 billion in emergency cash over 15 months. The United States now accounts for around a quarter of all known infections around the globe and its death toll is rocketing up. About 6,000 people have died in the US outbreak, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, more than 1,100 of them in the last day.
White House experts say between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans could ultimately die from the disease. Disaster response agency FEMA on Thursday asked the US military for 100,000 body bags.
Around 85 percent of Americans are under some form of stay-at-home order.
Europe has been at the centre of the crisis for weeks, but there have been signs that the epidemic could be approaching its peak there.
Spain and Britain saw record numbers of new deaths in a 24-hour period -- 950 and 569 respectively. Italy and Spain together account for almost half of the global death toll, but experts say the number of new infections in both countries is continuing to slow. “The data show the curve has stabilised and the epidemic has entered a ‘slowdown’ phase,” Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa said.
The virus has chiefly affected the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions, but recent cases of deaths among teenagers and even of a six-week-old baby have highlighted the dangers for people of all ages.