Pledge of Allegiance  US Staten Island New York
A crowd gives the Pledge of Allegiance while supporting Bobby Catone, the owner of a Staten Island tanning salon, Thursday, May 28, 2020, in New York. Catone opened the salon briefly Thursday morning in defiance of a law requiring non-essential businesses to remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic. Image Credit: AP

Dubai: US President Donald Trump on Thursday marked the "sad milestone" of 100,000 coronavirus deaths in the country, even as the pandemic tightened its grip on South America.

Global cases have surged to nearly 5.7 million, with more than 354,000 deaths.

"We have just reached a very sad milestone with the coronavirus pandemic deaths reaching 100,000," Trump posted on Twitter, about 16 hours after the death toll passed the threshold according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.

"To all of the families & friends of those who have passed, I want to extend my heartfelt sympathy & love for everything that these great people stood for & represent. God be with you!"

The US death toll, from 1.7 million confirmed infections, is by far the highest of any nation, and critics have accused the president of an inadequate early response to the pandemic.

US graphic 100,000
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Deaths rise in Brazil

Deaths in Brazil topped 25,000 on Wednesday, and its caseload is second only to the United States.

Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's far-right president and a Trump ally, has slammed stay-at-home orders and played down the threat of the virus, saying the economic fallout of lockdowns causes more damage than the disease itself.

But infections in Brazil have surged past 411,000, and similar bad news continues to emerge from other South American countries.

Peru logged a record 6,154 new cases in a 24-hour period, with its virus response coordinator Pilar Mazzetti warning that "difficult days, difficult weeks are coming."

South Korea re-imposes rules

While many countries are digging out of lockdowns, South Korea has re-imposed social distancing rules after a spike in new cases.

The 79 new cases in South Korea come as life appeared to be returning to normal following an extensive "trace, test and treat" programme.

Social distancing rules had been relaxed earlier this month, but following the spike - centred around the densely-populated capital Seoul - authorities ordered some of them be re-imposed, and for museums, parks and galleries to close again from Friday.

Russia cases rise

Russia's coronavirus death toll passed 4,000 on Thursday as medics in the second city Saint Petersburg said hospitals were operating at the peak of their capacity.

Health officials reported that 4,142 people had died in Russia from the virus, with 174 new deaths over the last 24 hours.

The number of new deaths equalled Russia's highest daily toll recorded yet on Tuesday.

Officials said last week Russia would see a sharp rise in the mortality figures for May as they anticipate deaths of patients who were admitted to hospitals during the peak of the epidemic several weeks ago.

France bans controversial drug

France has said that it was banning the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment after the World Health Organization suspended its testing over fears of dangerous side effects.

The drug has proved controversial and divisive, with some leaders and governments still backing it - including President Trump, who said he had taken a course as a preventative measure because he had "heard a lot of good stories" about it.

Health authorities in Brazil and Senegal, and India's top biomedical research body have said they will continue to use it for COVID-19 patients, but the US Food and Drug Administration has warned of serious side effects and poisoning.

- with inputs from Reuters, AFP