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U.N. says world losing coronavirus fight; cases top 500,000

By
Darryl Coote & Don Jacobson
People in Beijing wear protective face masks and have their temperature checked by security at a fashion galleria on Thursday. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI
People in Beijing wear protective face masks and have their temperature checked by security at a fashion galleria on Thursday. Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

March 27 (UPI) -- The United Nations warned the world is losing its battle to the coronavirus as the number of infections exponentially increased and the global caseload soared past 500,000 on Friday.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told the leaders of the Group of 20 during a teleconference summit on Thursday that the world is at war with a virus and losing, urging them to come up with "a war-time plan to fight it."

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"It took the world three months to reach 100,000 confirmed cases of the infection. The next 100,000 happened in just 12 days. The third took four days. The fourth, just one and a half. This is exponential growth, and only the tip of the iceberg," he said.

By midday Friday, the number of cases stood at more than 566,000 and nearly 25,500 deaths, according to a live tracker of the virus by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 128,000 have recovered from the disease.

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Guterres called for solidarity, a global cease-fire and a coming together of developed and developing countries to fight the virus through suppression while working together to minimize its social and economic impact and to create a better world once the pandemic is over.

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"We must work together now to set the stage for a recovery that builds a more sustainable, inclusive and equitable economy," he said.

World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus on Friday acknowledged the grim milestone in the number of cases.

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"There are now more than half-a-million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 20,000 deaths," he said during his Friday briefing from WHO headquarters in Geneva. "These are tragic numbers, but let's also remember that around them there are hundreds of thousands of survivors."

Ghebreyesus said he urged the G-20 leaders to "fight, unite and ignite."

That meant "fight to stop the coronavirus with every resource at our disposal, and unite to confront the COVID-19 pandemic together," he said. "We are one humanity, with one, common enemy. No country can fight alone. We can only fight together."

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In China, the former epicenter of the outbreak, health officials who had been battling local transmission of the virus for months are now shifting their concern to imported cases.

On Friday, China's National Health Commission reported 55 new cases of the virus over the previous day with all but one being imported from overseas. The country has the second-most number of infections with 81,340 -- of which 595 were brought into the country. Two weeks ago, it had fewer than 100 such cases.

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To clamp down on the influx of cases, China has announced it is temporarily suspending the entry of all foreigners, even those with visas and residence permits, starting at midnight Friday.

"The suspension is a temporary measure that China is compelled to take in light of the outbreak situation and the practices of other countries," China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday in a statement. "The above-mentioned measures will be calibrated in light of the evolving situation and announced accordingly."

In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Friday that starting Saturday at midnight, all overseas arrivals will be quarantined for two weeks in either hotels or other accommodation facilities before they may return to their residences.

"If their home is in South Australia or in Perth or in Tasmania and they have arrived in Melbourne, they will be quarantining in Melbourne," he told reporters during a press conference.

Asked about the scale of this operation, the prime minister said 7,120 people arrived at the country's airport on Thursday -- a level at which they believe the states and territories can accommodate.

But to help in the effort, Morrison has deployed the military "to assist in the compliance with these arrangements," though he stressed they are not authorized to perform arrests.

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"That is the responsibility of law enforcement officers so sworn in those jurisdictions," he said. "The [Australian Defense Force] will be there to support those enforcement authorities."

According to a statement from his office, the military personnel will be bolstering local police efforts in visiting the residences of Australians under mandatory isolation.

In Singapore, the Ministry of Health announced starting Friday that failing to comply with social distancing rules instituted earlier in the week could result in six months in jail or fine of about $7,000.

The measures came into effect midnight Thursday, criminalizing those who don't ensure the physical distance of at least three feet with others or attend gatherings of more than 10 people. The move follows the ministry on Tuesday outlining strict measures, including the suspension of all religious services and the ordering of restaurants to ensure tables are a minimum of three feet apart.

Scenes from a pandemic: World copes with COVID-19

A health worker with the Israeli national emergency service, Magen David Adam, wears protective gear while taking swabs to test for COVID-19 at a drive-through testing center in East Jerusalem on August 26. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo

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