Spain Confirms 100,000 Coronavirus Cases; US Braces for Huge Death Toll

Spain announced Wednesday it surpassed 100,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, while a senior Saudi official urged people planning to make the hajj pilgrimage to hold off on deciding for now.Spain is one of the global hot spots for the virus, trailing only the United States and Italy in terms of number of cases.  Wednesday’s announcement also included a death toll that now stands at more than 9,000.Muslim pilgrims are due to descend on Saudi Arabia from all over the world in late July to perform the once-in-a-lifetime religious duty.  But with the virus pandemic, and Saudi Arabia already banning entry to Mecca and Medina, Saudi Hajj and Umrah Minister Muhammad Saleh bin Taher Banten told state television people should wait for more clarity on the situation.In the United States, officials say Americans should be prepared for a potential 100,000 to 240,000 deaths from the coronavirus, while stressing the need to keep social distancing measures in place to give the best chance of lessening the toll. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, March 31, 2020, in Washington.Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he hopes the number will not go that high, but that realistically people should be ready. “People are suffering. People are dying,” he said.  “It’s inconvenient from a societal standpoint, from an economic standpoint to go through this. But this is going to be the answer to our problems. So, let’s all pull together and make sure, as we look forward to the next 30 days, we do it with all the intensity and force that we can.” Countries all over the world have locked down cities, regions and even their entire nations to try to stop the virus from spreading. One of the latest to put in place a two-week ban on all but essential activities is Vietnam, which started Wednesday. Last week, New Zealand shut down restaurants, bars, offices and schools.  Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Wednesday it is too early to tell what extent those measures have helped so far and advocated more testing to actively track down infections and stop new transmissions. Her government reported 61 new cases to push New Zealand’s total to 708. “If the virus is in the community in this way… then the worst thing we can do is to relax and be complacent, and allow the silent spread,” Ardern said. In South Korea, where mass testing has helped level off local transmission rates, officials reported 101 new cases Wednesday.  The country also started enforcing new 14-day quarantines for anyone entering the country. The risks of imported cases undermining successes in controlling community spread of COVID-19 have prompted similar measures in China, which for several months was by far the world leader in coronavirus cases but now has become a sign of hope with gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions. In Germany, health officials said there were about 5,500 new cases there, putting the country on track to soon become the next to surpass China. A research assistant holds coronavirus test samples in her hands at the Lower Saxony State Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (LAVES) in Hanover, Germany, April 1, 2020.Meanwhile, in keeping with a plea from U.N. chief Antonio Guterres for parties in the world’s conflicts to take this opportunity to halt their fighting, the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday urged Afghanistan’s warring sides to implement a cease-fire. The Council “called on the political leadership of Afghanistan to put aside their differences and put the interest of the country first.” 

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