US may become next centre of coronavirus pandemic, says WHO

Figures go against Trump talk of restarting economy, as other countries tighten controls

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,” said the prime minister, 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.

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“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.

Hopes that Italy’s extensive lockdown was bearing fruit, with drops in reported deaths in recent days, proved to be premature. The numbers have risen by 743 to 6,820, the head of the Civil Protection Agency said on Tuesday, ending two days of decline in fatalities. Deaths dropped from 793 on Saturday to 651 on Sunday and just over 600 on Monday.

Angelo Borrelli, the top coronavirus response official in Italy, had earlier started to sound optimistic.

“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”.

But he 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.

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

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