Washington (AFP) – The United States now has more COVID-19 infections than any other country, and a record number of newly unemployed people, as the coronavirus crisis deepens around the world.
Hours after his nation reached the grim milestone, President Donald Trump spoke by phone to China’s Xi Jinping, after weeks of bickering and finger pointing over a disease researchers say could kill at least 1.8 million people by the end of the year.
“Just finished a very good conversation with President Xi of China,” Trump tweeted.
“China has been through much & has developed a strong understanding of the Virus. We are working closely together. Much respect!”
The warm words — which were not quite echoed in the Chinese state media readout of the call — came after a few weeks in which the White House had repeatedly referred to “the Chinese coronavirus”, angering Beijing.
China, which appears to have got on top of its own outbreak, readied to bar entry to foreigners as it frets over a surge in imported cases, illustrating the difficulty of containing a virus in an interconnected world.
Wuhan, the city where the illness first emerged late last year, was — from midnight — to ease severe movement restrictions in place for two months.
That initial lockdown has now been aped around the world, with three billion people told to stay indoors.
Healthcare systems in even the most developed nations are being stretched to breaking point with dire warnings they could soon be overwhelmed.
More than 530,000 people globally have been sickened by the disease.
A tally by Johns Hopkins University showed that by around 0900 GMT Friday, there were almost 86,000 known infections in the US. That figure is higher than both China and hard-hit Italy, which accounts for a third of the 24,000 deaths worldwide.
– Grim predictions –
Even with lockdowns implemented around the world, researchers at Imperial College London said Thursday the global death toll could be staggering.