Coronavirus death toll passes half a million worldwide

The world has surpassed 500,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths and 10 million confirmed cases.

The sobering milestone was reached as countries that attempted reopenings continued to scale them back while warning that worse news could be yet to come.

In the US, the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, said Covid-19 had taken “a very swift and very dangerous turn” in the state. Mr Abbott had allowed businesses to start reopening in early May but shut down bars and limited restaurant dining on Friday amid a spike in cases.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>(PA Graphics)</figcaption>
(PA Graphics)

California governor Gavin Newsom rolled back reopenings of bars in seven counties, including Los Angeles. He ordered them to close immediately and urged eight other counties to issue local health orders mandating the same.

South Africa’s health minister warned that the country’s current surge of cases is expected to rapidly increase in the coming weeks and push hospitals to the limit.

Health minister Zwelini Mkhize said the current rise in infections has come from people who “moved back into the workplace. It was therefore inevitable that there would be cluster outbreaks as infections spilled over from communities into places of congregation such as mines, factories, taxis and buses”.

Poland and France, meanwhile, attempted a step towards normality as they held elections that had been delayed by the virus.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Face masks were mandatory in France’s municipal elections (AP/Bob Edme)</figcaption>
Face masks were mandatory in France’s municipal elections (AP/Bob Edme)

Wearing mandatory masks, social distancing in lines and carrying their own pens to sign voting registers, French voters cast ballots in a second round of municipal elections.

Poles also wore masks and used hand sanitiser, and some in virus-hit areas were told to post their ballots to avoid further contagion.

In Texas, Mr Abbott appeared with vice president Mike Pence, who cut campaign events from upcoming visits to Florida and Arizona because of rising virus cases in those states.

Mr Pence praised Mr Abbott for both his decision to reopen the state, and to roll back the reopening plans.

“You flattened the curve here in Texas … but about two weeks ago something changed,” Mr Pence said.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>US vice president Mike Pence and Texas governor Greg Abbott (AP/Tony Gutierrez)</figcaption>
US vice president Mike Pence and Texas governor Greg Abbott (AP/Tony Gutierrez)

Mr Pence urged people to wear masks when unable to practise social distancing. He and Mr Abbott wore face masks as they entered and left the room, taking them off while speaking to reporters.

Health and human services secretary Alex Azar, meanwhile, defended the fact that President Donald Trump has rarely worn a mask in public, saying he does not have to follow his own administration’s guidance because as a leader of the free world he is tested regularly and is in “very different circumstances than the rest of us”.

Addressing spikes in reported coronavirus cases in some states, Mr Azar said people “have to take ownership” of their own behaviours by social distancing and wearing masks if possible.

A reported tally from Johns Hopkins University researchers said the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic had reached 500,108.

About one in four of those deaths – more than 125,000 – have been reported in the US. The country with the next highest death toll is Brazil, with more than 57,000, or about one in 9.

<figcaption class='imgFCap'>Brazil has the second highest number of coronavirus deaths (AP/Leo Correa)</figcaption>
Brazil has the second highest number of coronavirus deaths (AP/Leo Correa)

The true death toll from the virus, which first emerged in China late last year, is widely believed to be significantly higher. Experts say that especially early on, many victims died of Covid-19 without being tested for it.

To date, more than 10 million confirmed cases have been reported globally. About a quarter of them have been reported in the US.

The World Health Organisation announced another daily record in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases across the world – topping 189,000 in a single 24-hour period. The tally eclipses the previous record a week earlier at over 183,000 cases, showing case counts continue to progress worldwide.

Overall the US still has far and away the most total cases. At more than 2.4 million – roughly twice that of Brazil. The number of actual cases worldwide is much higher.

New York, once the nation’s pandemic epicentre, is now “on the exact opposite end” governor Andrew Cuomo said.

The state reported five new virus deaths on Saturday, its lowest reported daily death toll since March 15. During the state’s peak pandemic in April, nearly 800 people were dying every day. New York still leads the nation in Covid-19 deaths with nearly 25,000.

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