UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Homeland Security

WHO: Europe Replaces China as Epicenter of Pandemic

By VOA News March 13, 2020

The World Health Organization said Friday that Europe had now replaced China as the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic.

WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva that in Europe, "more cases are now being reported every day than were reported in China at the height of its epidemic.''

Italy said Friday that the number of coronavirus infections had soared by more than 2,500 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number infected in the country to 17,660. The number of coronavirus deaths in Italy was 1,266.

New cases and deaths also accelerated Friday in Spain and Germany, while in the United States, President Donald Trump declared a state of emergency.

Trump said at a news conference outside the White House that the move would "unleash the full power of the federal government" and would allow states and cities to receive $50 billion to combat the pandemic.

Trump also said the U.S. government was partnering with the private sector to accelerate the capacity to test for the virus and said another 1.4 million tests would be available next week. The United States has been criticized for its slow rollout of coronavirus test kits.

Emergency in Spain

Spain also declared a state of emergency Friday, saying it would last two weeks and would allow the military to help the country contain the pandemic. The government put 60,000 people in four towns on mandatory lockdown in measures similar to those taken in Italy. Spain had 4,200 cases of infection, with more than 2,000 of them in Madrid.

More than 138,000 people have been infected by the new coronavirus worldwide, with the most in China, where over 3,000 patients have died and upward of 62,000 people already have recovered. While China still accounts for more than 60% of global infections, it reported just eight new COVID-19 infections Friday.

It was an astonishing turnaround for China, where thousands of new infections had been recorded in one day.

The virus first emerged in China's Wuhan province late last year.

The single-digit increase of new cases does not mean, however, the virus is on its way out of the Asian nation. There are still thousands of Chinese who remain infected with the virus that has now spread around the world.

China state media said President Xi Jinping told U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a telephone conversation Thursday that his nation would "carry on its prevention and control efforts in an unrelenting, solid and meticulous fashion."

In addition, Xinhua reported the president said China was ready to share its experiences with the virus with other countries and conduct joint drug and vaccine research and development.

G-7 videoconference

France's president announced Friday that leaders of the world's largest democracies, the G-7, would hold a videoconference summit Monday to discuss coordinating a response to the pandemic.

Trump said on Twitter Friday morning that there would soon be COVID testing "on a very large scale basis." He added that "All the Red Tape has been cut," but he did not give any details or indication about when or how the testing would begin.

The pandemic was turning life upside down and inside out for nearly every man, woman and child. New travel restrictions, closures and cancellations were taking place in countries around the globe virtually every hour.

Schools in many countries around the world have been closed for tens of millions of students, forcing parents to scramble to find child care or a way to work from home.

Few in the United States have avoided being affected by the coronavirus outbreak in some way, including the president.

Brazilian communication secretary Fabio Wajngarten tested positive for the virus, days after he met with Trump at the president's Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida. The White House said the president had not been tested, and Trump said Thursday that he was "not concerned," even though he sat next to Wajngarten for some time.

Brazilian officials said Friday that President Jair Bolsonaro had tested negative for the virus.

The wife of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has tested positive for the virus, Canada announced late Thursday. The couple went into isolation Wednesday after she showed mild symptoms after returning from a speaking engagement in London.

Sports cancellations

The PGA Tour became the latest sports organization to cancel events, announcing that one of golf's most prestigious events, the Masters, would not be held in April. That followed cancellations by Major League Baseball, Major League Soccer, the National Hockey League and college basketball.

Iran asked for a $5 billion emergency loan from the International Monetary Fund. Officials reported more than 10,000 confirmed cases with 429 deaths Thursday.

Iranian global health scholar Kamair Alaei told VOA Persian that he believed the actual number was 40,000.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif appealed to the U.N.'s Guterres to demand international support for an end to U.S. sanctions, saying they were hurting Iranian efforts to fight the disease.

Zarif called the sanctions "economic terrorism."

Lisa Schlein in Geneva, Margaret Besheer in New York and VOA Persian's Farhad Pouladi and Arian Risbaf contributed to this report.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list