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As worst-hit countries mull easing lockdown measures, global Covid-19 cases near 2 million

Experts fear that while the virus appears to peaking in some areas, it could begin to spike in others.

A medical mask covers the face of a statue in Guatemala City.
A medical mask covers the face of a statue in Guatemala City.
Image: Moises Castillo/PA Images

NEW YORK’S CORONAVIRUS death toll has topped 10,000 and the worldwide number of confirmed cases is closing in on two million as discussion moves to easing lockdown restrictions.

The brunt of the disease has been felt most heavily in New York, Italy, France, Spain and the United Kingdom, but grim projections of a virus that would spread with equal ferocity to other corners of America and the world have not yet materialised.

In Ireland, there are now 10,647 confirmed cases and 365 people have died here.

An online dashboard that tracks the global number of confirmed coronavirus cases, maintained by Johns Hopkins University, showed the number of cases passing 2,000,000 in the early hours today but the site was later adjusted to show 1.9 million cases worldwide, with the reasons for the change not immediately clear.

When it passes the 2 million mark, it’ll mean the number of cases have doubled worldwide in less than two weeks.

Many parts of the world have had heavy restrictions on freedom of movement to combat Covid-19, and officials around the world are worried that halting quarantine and social-distancing measures could easily undo the hard-earned progress.

However, there were signs countries were looking in that direction.

Spain permitted some workers to return to their jobs, while a hard-hit region of Italy loosened its lockdown restrictions.

Governors on both coasts of the US announced that they would join forces to come up with a coordinated reopening at some point, setting the stage for a potential conflict with US president Donald Trump, who asserted that he is the ultimate decision-maker for determining how and when to reopen.

In the US, about half of the more than 22,000 deaths reported are in the New York metropolitan area.

Meanwhile, Johns Hopkins’ tracking maps showed a dense patchwork of coronavirus cases along the Northeast corridor, as well as significant outbreaks corresponding to other major metropolitan areas – though nothing on the scale of what New York has endured.

2.53406114 Source: PA Graphics

Dr Sebastian Johnston, a professor of respiratory medicine at Imperial College London, said it appeared that Covid-19 had peaked in much of Europe, including France, Spain, Germany, Italy and the UK.

He was worried the virus might now start to take off in countries across Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia.

South Korea today reported its 13th day in a row with fewer than 100 confirmed cases of the virus, as infections continued to wane in the worst-hit city of Daegu and nearby towns.

Hot spots may yet emerge as states lift stay-at-home orders, said Dr Christopher Murray, director of the University of Washington institute that created widely cited projections of virus-related deaths.

He pointed to states where the number of Covid-19 cases is still climbing, such as Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Texas and Florida.

He said: “Don’t consider relaxing social distancing in the near term.

“You need to stay the course.”

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