China revises up Wuhan death toll as US plots reopening
April 17 2020 04:12 PM
An aerial view shows the P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China's centra
An aerial view shows the P4 laboratory at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in Wuhan in China's central Hubei province

AFP/Wuhan

The Chinese city at the origin of the coronavirus outbreak revised up its death toll by 50 percent Friday, as global criticism mounted over China's handling of the deadly pandemic.
Since emerging from Wuhan late last year, the coronavirus has embarked on a deadly march across the planet, killing more than 145,000 people and wrecking the global economy as more than half of humanity -- 4.5 billion people -- is trapped indoors.
While President Donald Trump announced a phased reopening of the United States, the economic devastation was clear to see in China, where gross domestic product slammed into reverse for the first time since records began.
Several countries across Europe are starting to slowly ease back weeks-old restrictions after deaths and infections showed signs of stabilising, and the German health minister said Thursday his country's outbreak was "under control".
In China, Wuhan's city government added 1,290 deaths to its toll, bringing the total to 3,869 after many dead were "mistakenly reported" or missed entirely, adding to growing global doubts over China's transparency.
Leaders in France and Britain joined Trump's broadsides against China, as two US media outlets reported suspicions the virus accidentally slipped out of a sensitive Wuhan laboratory that studied bats.
President Emmanuel Macron told the Financial Times it would be "naive" to think China had handled the pandemic well, adding: "There are clearly things that have happened that we don't know about."
Beijing hit back on Friday, insisting there had been no cover-up.
"There has never been any concealment, and we'll never allow any concealment," a foreign ministry spokesman said.

World leaders are grappling with the question of when -- and how -- to reopen society, seeking a life-and-death balance between unfreezing stalled economies and preventing a deadly second coronavirus wave.
While Trump declared Thursday that the time had come for the "next front in our war" with a phased reboot of the US economy, others took the opposite path -- Japan, Britain and Mexico all expanded current restrictions.
Despite the United States suffering a staggering 4,500 deaths in the last 24 hours -- taking the national toll to almost 33,000 -- Trump proclaimed: "We're opening up our country."
The president's approach was a step back from previous hopes for a sudden re-opening however, and state governors were given the freedom to set their own plans to resume business.
Lightly affected states can open "literally tomorrow", said Trump, while others would receive White House "freedom and guidance" to achieve that at their own pace.
In New York state for example -- where more than 11,500 have died -- Governor Andrew Cuomo extended a shutdown order until May 15.
Top US government scientist Anthony Fauci promised a gradual resumption of business as usual, saying: "Light switch on and off is the exact opposite of what you see here."
New Yorker Jamie O'Reilly, owner of a dog-walking business, summed up the agonising predicament world leaders face.
"Why does the economy matter if we're not around to spend any money because we're all sick?" the 31-year-old told AFP.
Meanwhile, there were more signs the global economy is imploding.
China reported Friday its GDP shrank 6.8 percent in the first quarter, the first contraction since quarterly growth data started in the early 1990s.
In the US, another 5.2 million workers lost their jobs, bringing the total number of newly unemployed to a staggering 22 million since mid-March.
John Williams, a top Federal Reserve official, predicted it would take "a year or two" if not longer for the US to recover from what the International Monetary Fund has termed the "Great Lockdown" battering the global economy.
The virus could spark another "lost decade" in Latin America, the IMF warned, while experts cautioned that freezing debt for poor countries will not save many developing world economies.
In Europe, automobile sales shrank 55 percent in March, according to the industry's trade association.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte threatened a typically muscular approach to lockdown, suggesting a martial law-style crackdown to enforce social distancing.
But some European countries -- such as hard-hit Spain and Italy -- were embarking on a long road back to normality, with Venice residents strolling around quiet canals stripped of their usual throngs of tourists.
Switzerland, Denmark and Finland were among those gradually re-opening shops and schools.
In Germany, select small shops will be allowed to reopen Monday and some children could soon return to school within weeks.
Infection rates there "have sunk significantly" and the outbreak is "under control", Health Minister Jens Spahn said Friday.
But Britain, which shut down later than continental Europe, extended its lockdown for at least three more weeks.
And in Russia, recorded infections topped 32,000 as the deputy mayor of Moscow warned of difficult weeks" ahead in her city.
"The peak in morbidity should arrive in the next two to three weeks," Anastasia Rakova said.
Around the world, people have come up with ingenious ways to bring back some semblance of normality -- and social connection -- to their upended lives.
In Rome an 18-year-old guitarist takes to his balcony every evening at sunset to play covers of Italian classics.
"We decided to lend a hand to Italians: a message of hope," Jacopo Mastrangelo told AFP from his patio.
"We are accustomed to always seeing Rome full, teeming with people. Now the grass is growing between the cobblestones, everything has been left abandoned, and we decided to help."
And in Britain, 99-year-old war veteran Captain Tom Moore raised over £18 million ($22 million) for healthcare workers on the front lines of the fight against coronavirus.
Moore, who turns 100 at the end of the month, has captured hearts around the world by doing laps of his garden with the help of his walker.
"Thank you so much for your INCREDIBLE support and generosity so far," the captain said in his latest Twitter update.



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