Global virus deaths hit 150,000 as Trump says China hiding toll

by Paul Handley, with Jing Xuan Teng in Wuhan and AFP bureaus

World coronavirus deaths passed 150,000 Friday as US President Donald Trump accused China of continuing to cover up its toll, even after Beijing revised figures sharply upward for Wuhan, the original epicenter of the global pandemic.

COVID-19 fatalities mounted in the United States and hard-hit Western Europe countries, but fresh data on rising infections and deaths in Africa showed the virus is leaving no continent untouched as it marches around the globe.

More than half of humanity — 4.5 billion people — were confined to their homes, with evidence mounting of social distancing’s success in slowing the pandemic.

But widespread nervousness remained over when and how to ease widespread confinement measures to revive the world economy, battered by what the International Monetary Fund has dubbed the “Great Lockdown”.

2.2 million cases worldwide

More than 2.2 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported in 193 countries and territories, according to figures collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO).

The numbers probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections however, because many countries are testing only the most serious cases.

Out of more than 150,000 total deaths, the United States has recorded 34,614, Italy 22,745, and Spain 19,613.

Illustrating the spread, Africa reported its 1,000th death on Friday.

China has recorded 4,636 deaths, on Friday increasing the official toll for Wuhan city by 1,290 — a precise 50.0 percent — to 3,869.

Trump, who has been accused of reacting too slowly to the coronavirus threat, alleged that Beijing’s numbers were still untrue.

“It is far higher than that and far higher than the U.S., not even close!” Trump tweeted.

Trump did not offer evidence, but pressure has mounted in recent days on Beijing to come clean over its handling of the original outbreak, as US media reported suspicions the virus came not from a Wuhan wet market as first claimed, but from a poorly-managed nearby research facility studying bat-related diseases.

Leaders in France and Britain have also questioned China’s management of the crisis, and French President Emmanuel Macron said it would be “naive” to think Beijing had handled the pandemic well.

Beijing hit back earlier Friday, insisting there had been no cover-up.

“There has never been any concealment, and we’ll never allow any concealment,” a foreign ministry spokesman said. (AFP)