A municipal worker disinfect a warehouse with hospital material, to stop the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cascais, Portugal March 27, 2020.
A municipal worker disinfect a warehouse with hospital material, to stop the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Cascais, Portugal March 27, 2020. Image Credit: Reuters

Dubai: More than 531,600 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus across the world and more than 25,000 have died. Infections have been reported in 203 countries and territories since first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Friday became the most prominent politician to test positive for COVID-19, on a day when the US reached the grim milestone of becoming the country with the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world with more than 85,000 infections.

Also on Friday, Spain's death toll soared to more than 4,800 after 769 people died in 24 hours.

Johnson’s office said the prime minister was tested after showing mild symptoms for the new coronavirus and is self-isolating and continuing to lead Britain’s response to the pandemic.

“Be in no doubt that I can continue, thanks to the wizardry of modern technology, to communicate with all my top team, to lead the national fightback against coronavirus,” Johnson said in a video message, adding that he had a temperature and persistent cough.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who has been at the forefront of the nation’s response to the outbreak, also was confirmed to have tested positive for the virus. Britain has 11,658 confirmed cases of the virus, and 578 people have died.

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Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson, right, and Health Minister Matt Hancock visit Bassetlaw District General Hospital on their General Election campaign in Worksop, England in November 2019. Matt Hancock has tested positive for the new coronavirus, Friday March 27, 2020, the same day as Prime Minister Boris Johnson was confirmed to have COVID-19. Image Credit: AP

Spain death toll rises

Spain’s Health Ministry said deaths climbed by 769 to 4,858 - the world’s second highest total after Italy’s 8,214 fatalities. In all, there were another 7,800 infections overnight for a total of 64,059. Spain says 9,444 health workers have contracted the coronavirus. That’s nearly 15 per cent of the total number of cases.

“It’s true that we have more deaths than what we saw yesterday, but it’s also true that the percentage increase today is similar to that of he past three days and it appears there is a stabilization,” said Fernando Simon, the head of Spain’s health emergency coordination centre.

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People line up to buy supplies from a shop during the coronavirus outbreak in Barcelona, Spain, on Friday, March 27, 2020. Image Credit: AP

Scramble for breathing machines

US doctors and nurses came under increasing stress on Friday as the number of coronavirus cases skyrocketed and medical staff were forced to ration care for an overwhelming number of patients. In the US, the death toll soared past 1,000, reaching 1,261 by the end of the day, and the total number of infections topped 85,000, surpassing the national totals of China and Italy to make the United States the world leader in confirmed cases.

In New York, which is now the epicentre of the virus outbreak in the US, Gov. Andrew Cuomo has appealed for more ventilators. The machines are necessary for severely ill patients, and there aren’t enough to meet the projected needs as the virus spreads. Cuomo has said the state would need 30,000 ventilators if the crisis reaches its expected breaking point in New York.

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A dormant COVID-19 testing tent stands outside SUNY Downstate Medical Center, on Friday, March 27, 2020, in New York. Image Credit: AP

Lockdown in South Africa

Africa’s economic powerhouse South Africa on Friday became the latest nation on the continent to start life under lockdown. Two deaths related to COVID-19 were also reported in the country.

China offers help to US

China’s President Xi Jinping spoke by telephone to US President Donald Trump and said the two countries needed to “unite to fight” the pandemic. Trump later tweeted: “China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!” The warm words were in contrast to weeks of finger pointing between the two countries, especially the White House’s repeated references to “the Chinese virus”.

On Friday, China placed restrictions on the entry of foreigners out of concern over a surge of imported cases,

Global death toll could be staggering, says study

Even with lockdowns implemented around the world, researchers at Imperial College London said the global death toll could be staggering. Their model shows 1.86 million people could die, with nearly 470 million infected this year. Failure to act swiftly in imposing lockdowns and strict social distancing could make those numbers far higher, they warned.

Firefighters to the rescue in Britain

The United Kingdom will use firefighters to help deliver food, retrieve dead bodies and drive ambulances as it braces for the looming peak of the coronavirus outbreak. So far, 578 people in the United Kingdom have died after testing positive for coronavirus and the number of confirmed cases has risen to 11,658. Under a deal struck between the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), Fire chiefs and Fire and Rescue Employers, firefighters will continue to respond to their usual emergencies but will now also carry out new tasks.

- with inputs from agencies