COVID-19 cases top 200,000 in Europe, UN staff mostly work from home

2020-03-25 02:22:06 GMT2020-03-25 10:22:06(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

BEIJING, March 25 (Xinhua) -- The world is now in a battle against COVID-19, a disease caused by a previously unknown coronavirus that has spread to over 180 countries and regions.

The following are the updates on the contagious illness.

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UNITED NATIONS -- A total of 51 cases of COVID-19 have been reported within the United Nations (UN) system across the world as of Tuesday, with the only attendance of essential staff at the UN headquarters in New York and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres working partly from home, according to Stephane Dujarric, Guterres' spokesman.

He reported about 130 swipes of identification cards through security turnstiles up until just before his usual mid-day briefing, compared to about 11,000 swipes before a work-at-home order was issued earlier in the month.

"The UN is following the restrictions put in place by New York State. All non-essential personnel are tasked to work from home. There are, obviously, some essential personnel that need to stay in the building, notably those technicians who enable us to have these briefings or these virtual press conferences," he told a press briefing via video-link.

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday said it is working with importers and has adjusted import screening in efforts to facilitate the import of personal protective equipment (PPE) and other supplies needed for fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We have adjusted our import screening to further expedite imports of legitimate products and are continually monitoring our import systems to prevent and mitigate any potential issues," it said in a release, adding "We are engaging with importers and others involved in the import trade community during this pandemic to facilitate the entry of needed products, including PPE, into the U.S.."

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WASHINGTON -- The COVID-19 cases confirmed in the United States total 53,268 as of 18:00 Eastern Standard Time Tuesday, with 696 deaths, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University.

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BRUSSELS -- The cases 0f COVID-19 confirmed in Europe exceeded 200,000 as of Tuesday evening, or half of the known cases worldwide, representing an increase of 100,000 over five days. The hardest hit countries remained to be Italy, Spain, Germany and France, with over 150,000 cases in combination.

Another 12 European countries have each reported more than 1,000 confirmed infection cases, which are Switzerland, Britain, The Netherlands, Austria, Belgium, Norway, Portugal, Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Ireland, and Luxembourg.

Globally, some 400,000 cases were confirmed as of 1725 GMT on Tuesday, with 17,454 deaths, showed data by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the COVID-19 spread in real-time.

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ROME -- In Italy, the numbers of both new cases and deaths rebounded on Tuesday. Civil Protection Department Chief Angelo Borrelli said Italy reported 5,249 new cases of COVID-19 and 743 additional deaths in the last 24 hours.

It was the second highest daily toll, after Saturday's 793, since the epidemic broke out in Northern Italy on Feb. 21. Italy's number of new cases rebounded from 4,789 on Monday, reversing a day-to-day decline in new cases recorded over the previous five days.

The COVID-19 disease had claimed 6,820 lives as of Tuesday evening in Italy, a nation that has lost more lives than any other country to the pandemic. The cumulative number of the novel coronavirus cases in Italy reached 69,176, the most outside China, and 54,030 people are currently positive for the coronavirus, according to official data.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said a new decree is introduced to fine people caught violating the government's anti-coronavirus lockdown rules with 400 to 3,000 euros (430 to 3,228 U.S. dollars), and to empower regional governors to impose stiffer lockdown rules if needed.

Under Italy's lockdown rules, people are not allowed to leave their homes except for buying food, going to the pharmacy, walking their dogs, or going to work if they are employed in key sectors such as health care or food production. People are also not allowed to travel between municipalities

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MADRID -- Spain reported 39,373 cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, with the death toll rising to 2,696 in a 24-hour span, showed official data.

In Spain, the government confirmed on Tuesday that it had "agreed to ask Congress for the authorization to extend the State of Alarm until April 12," adding that "the request will be debated and voted on tomorrow, Wednesday."

A State of Alarm is the first of three emergency levels that the Spanish government can apply under exceptional circumstances.

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PARIS -- A total of 22,302 COVID-19 cases were confirmed in France as of Tuesday, including 1,100 deaths and marking an increase of 2,153 in the past 24 hours, according to Director-General of Health Jerome Salomon.

Currently, 10,176 people are hospitalized, including 2,516 in the intensive care units, said Salomon at a daily briefing. "We are still in a situation that worsens rapidly."

Starting on Tuesday, France's lockdown rules and anti-virus measures have become stricter. People are allowed to go out for a walk with their children or to exercise once per day for no more than one hour, and within one kilometer of their home.

Health Minister Olivier Veran said Tuesday that France will remain in lockdown as long as needed to halt the spread of the virus. "As long as it (the confinement) should last, it lasts," he said.

France was put into lockdown on March 17 for at least 15 days. Separately, France's scientific council said the lockdown should last at least six weeks, noting, "At present, confinement is the only really operational strategy."

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BERLIN -- In Germany, confirmed cases of COVID-19 increased by 4,764 in 24 hours to 27,436 as of Tuesday, according to the German government agency for disease control and prevention Robert Koch Institute.

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HELSINKI -- In Finland, where 792 cases of COVID-19 were reported as of Tuesday afternoon, the government has decided to ask the parliamentary approval for powers to isolate the Uusimaa province, including the capital Helsinki, and to close restaurants, in its efforts to prevent the further spread of the novel coronavirus.

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LISBON -- Portuguese government announced on Tuesday that the suspension of air links with Italy will be extended for another 14 days, Lusa News Agency reported.

"In view of the intensity of the COVID-19 pandemic in Italy, the Ministry of Infrastructure and Housing, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and of Internal Administration, decided to extend the order of March 10, which suspended flights from all airlines, commercial or private, to or from Portuguese airports or aerodromes to all regions of Italy," said a government statement.

The new order will take effect from Wednesday and run until April 7. The latest official data showed 2,362 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Portugal, including 33 deaths.