In a “tragic milestone”, Europe has overtaken China becoming the epicenter of the new coronavirus pandemic that has killed over 5,000 people worldwide.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization (WHO), said on Friday evening that he had seen more than 132,000 cases of COVID-19 in 123 countries since it first surfaced in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late December. .
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During Friday night, the number of cases rose to over 145,000 with the most confirmed cases from China, Italy and Iran.
“Europe has now become the epicenter of the pandemic with more reported and dead cases than the rest of the (world) united apart from China,” said Tedros through a virtual press conference in Geneva.
“More cases are reported every day than reported in China at the height of its epidemic.”
Italy, the epicenter of the epidemic in Europe, recorded its highest daily budget ever.
In the past 24 hours, it has experienced over 250 deaths, bringing the total to well over 1,000 with over 17,600 infections overall. In the three weeks since the country identified its first virus cluster, Italy has initiated an unprecedented blockade, ordering companies to close and limiting the movement of people.
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The mayors of many Italian cities, including Rome and Milan, decided to close parks and public parks.
Among the parks whose doors were closed on Saturday was Rome’s sprawling Villa Pamphilj, a hilly expanse of umbrella pines and palm trees on the former grounds of a noble family.
Meanwhile, Spain, the most affected European nation after Italy, has seen more than 132 deaths. Health officials said Saturday’s coronavirus infections reached 5,753 people, including nearly 3,000 in the capital, Madrid.
This represents a national increase of over 1,500 in 24 hours.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez is ready to declare a state of alert on Saturday for two weeks, while around 60,000 people in four cities have been placed in a mandatory blockade state on Friday which echoed the Italian one.
Residents in Madrid and northeastern Catalonia woke up on Saturday with closed bars and restaurants while other non-essential commercial stores were closed by regional authorities.
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In just 24 hours, the number of confirmed cases has increased in places. France saw another 800 cases reaching over 3,600 by Friday, while Britain went from 590 to nearly 800.
Meanwhile, Denmark, which has so far seen 827 confirmed virus cases, announced last Friday that it will close all its borders – land, sea and air – at noon on Saturday until April 13th. All passenger traffic to and from Denmark will be stopped.
Travelers will be driven away to the border unless they can demonstrate that they have “a legitimate reason” to be there, as if they were Danish citizens or foreign nations living and working in the country.
“We are in uncharted territory,” said Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen. “We are in the middle of something that none of us have ever faced before.”
“I know that the general list of measures (announced by Denmark is very extreme and will be considered very extreme, but I am convinced that it is worth it.”
In the Czech Republic, the government ordered the closure of retail activities, including shopping centers, starting on Saturday morning. Exceptions include essential services such as supermarkets, gas stations and pharmacies, electronics stores and places that sell newspapers, glasses and pet supplies.
The country, which has the highest per capita consumption of beer in the world, will also close bars, restaurants and casinos. The measures are scheduled for at least 10 days.
“We are imposing those severe restrictions on preventing massive spread of the virus,” said Prime Minister Andrej Babis.
The Czech Republic has 150 coronavirus cases.
Earlier this week, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that travel from Europe would be limited for 30 days, even if the UK and Ireland are not included. The National Security Department made it clear that it affects most foreign nationals who were in the “Schengen area” without a European passport within 14 days before traveling to the United States.
The area in question comprises 26 counties including France, Italy, Spain, Germany, Greece and others. The United Kingdom, which left the European Union in January after four decades, is not part of the “Schengen area”.
The Trump administration has banned travel by foreign nationals who visited China and Iran last month. Trump declared a national emergency on Friday.
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Tedros urged countries to use aggressive measures, community mobilization and social estrangement to save lives.
“Don’t let this fire burn,” he said.
The spread pandemic has shown that power and influence offer no protection. Positive tests included the wife of the Canadian prime minister, a great aide to Iran’s supreme leader, the mayor of Miami, a Brazilian official who met Trump and an Australian government minister who met the state attorney general United and Trump’s daughter, Ivanka.
Pressed by reporters, Trump, who also met with the Brazilian official, said that “most likely” he will be tested for the virus “soon enough”, overturning a previous White House statement.
Adam Shaw and the Fox News Associated Press contributed to this report.