Virus deaths top 100,000 ahead of locked-down Easter
ROME- Agence France-Presse
The global coronavirus death toll topped 100,000 on April 10 as Easter celebrations around the world kicked off in near-empty churches with billions of people stuck indoors to halt the pandemic’s deadly march.
The grim milestone came as the World Health Organization issued a dire warning that prematurely lifting lockdown restrictions- which have kept more than half the planet’s population in lockdown- could spark a dangerous resurgence of the disease.
The extraordinary measures from New York to Naples to New Delhi have seen businesses and schools closed in a desperate bid to halt the virus’s relentless spread and the IMF said the world now faces the worst downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
More than 1.6 million people have been infected globally and the death toll hit 100,661 on Friday- with nearly 70 percent of fatal cases in hard-hit Europe.
The United States, now the pandemic’s epicenter, clocked more than 1,700 new deaths Thursday, a slight drop from Wednesday’s record toll of 1,973, with more than 500,000 infections, by far the most of any country.
Officials in the US and Europe nevertheless expressed some hope the curve could be starting to flatten.
U.S. President Donald Trump said that with his country’s infection trajectory "near the peak," and with social distancing working well, he was considering ways to open up the world’s biggest economy "as soon as possible."
"Without question it’s the biggest decision I’ve ever had to make," Trump told a news conference."
He acknowledged the "risk" of increased death tolls if shuttered businesses re-open too soon.
"But you know what? Staying at home leads to death also," he said, highlighting the massive economic cost to millions of Americans.
Weekend Easter celebrations that would normally see churches around the world packed with parishioners were replaced by an eerie emptiness Friday as lockdown orders kept millions from leaving their homes.
Even such hallowed traditions as the pope’s Easter message are being revamped- Pope Francis will live-stream from the seclusion of his private library.
"We have to respond to our confinement with all our creativity," the pontiff said. "We can either get depressed and alienated... or we can get creative."
Worshippers in Germany embraced social distancing orders to celebrate Good Friday -- at a drive-in service in Dusseldorf.
"It was a sad feeling at first," Catholic priest Frank Heidkamp told AFP, as hundreds of worshippers gathered in a parking lot.
"With this car service we’re trying to create a little bit of community."
More than four billion people are confined to their homes as governments worldwide have imposed never-before-seen measures to halt the virus.
This week, China started to ease months-old lockdown orders in Wuhan, where the outbreak started in December.
Like Trump, governments in Europe are facing pressure to strike a balance between keeping their populations safe and battering economies already bruised by widespread shutdowns.
The WHO issued a stern warning Friday about lifting lockdown measures.
"I know that some countries are already planning the transition out of stay-at-home restrictions," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said.
"Lifting restrictions too quickly could lead to a deadly resurgence. The way down can be as dangerous as the way up if not managed properly."
Some countries, especially in Asia, worry about a possible second wave of infections imported from travelers as life creeps back to normal.
In the United States, where coronavirus deaths have topped 18,000, second only to Italy, Trump said he would be naming a new "opening our country task force" on Tuesday next week as he seeks a rapid return to economic stability.
But the government’s top infectious disease specialist, Anthony Fauci, said that despite signs of progress, "this is not the time... to be pulling back at all" on social distancing efforts.