Many parts of the world are facing fresh waves of infections as they try to reopen their economies.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on countries to adopt an aggressive approach, highlighting Italy, Spain, South Korea and India's biggest slum to show it was possible to stop the spread, no matter how bad the outbreak, AFP reported.
Globally more than 12.5 million people have been infected by the virus and over 560,000 have died, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The US is the hardest-hit country with 134,097 deaths. It is followed by Brazil with 70,398, Britain with 44,650, Italy with 34,938 and Mexico with 34,191 fatalities, AFP reported.
Record set for new cases
New cases of COVID-19 rose by over 69,000 across the US on Friday, according to a Reuters tally, setting a record for the third consecutive day as Walt Disney Co stuck to its plans to reopen its flagship theme park in hard-hit Florida.
A total of nine US states – Alaska, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Louisiana, Montana, Ohio, Utah and Wisconsin – also reached records for single-day infections.
In Texas, another hot zone, Governor Greg Abbott warned on Friday he may have to impose new clampdowns if the state cannot stem its record-setting caseloads and hospitalizations through masks and social distancing.
California announced on Friday the state will release up to 8,000 inmates early from prisons to slow the spread of COVID-19 inside the facilities. At San Quentin State Prison, outside San Francisco, half of the facility’s roughly 3,300 prisoners have tested positive for the virus.
The Walt Disney Co. said the theme parks in Orlando would open on Saturday to a limited number of guests who along with employees would be required to wear masks and undergo temperature checks. The park also cancelled parades, firework displays and events that typically draw crowds.
Florida remains one of the worst hotspots for the virus in the nation and is among a handful of states where deaths are rising, based on a Reuters analysis of fatalities in the last two weeks, compared with the prior two weeks.
Sharply up in Africa, India
South Africa’s confirmed coronavirus cases have also doubled in just two weeks to a quarter-million, and India on Saturday saw its biggest daily spike as its infections passed 800,000, AP reported.
The surging cases are raising sharp concerns about unequal treatment in the pandemic, as the wealthy hoard medical equipment and use private hospitals and the poor crowd into overwhelmed public facilities.
Some of the worst-affected countries are among the world’s most unequal. South Africa leads them all on that measure, with the pandemic exposing the gap in care.
In Johannesburg, the epicenter of South Africa’s outbreak, badly needed oxygen concentrators that help COVID-19 patients who are struggling to breathe are hard to find as private businesses and individuals are buying them up, a public health specialist volunteering at a field hospital, Lynne Wilkinson, told The Associated Press.
South Africa now has more than 250,000 confirmed coronavirus cases, including more than 3,800 deaths. To complicate matters, the country’s troubled power utility has announced new electricity cuts in the dead of winter as a cold front brings freezing weather. Many of the country’s urban poor live in shacks of scrap metal and wood.
And in Kenya, some have been outraged by a local newspaper report that said several governors have installed intensive care unit equipment in their homes. The country lost its first doctor to COVID-19 this week.
More than 8,000 health workers across Africa have been infected, half of them in South Africa. The continent of 1.3 billion has the world’s lowest levels of health staffing and more than 550,000 cases, and the pandemic is reaching “full speed,” the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.
In India, which reported a new daily high of 27,114 cases on Saturday, nearly a dozen states have imposed a partial lockdown in high-risk areas. Cases jumped from 600,000 to more than 800,000 in nine days. People are packing India’s public hospitals as many are unable to afford private ones that generally uphold higher standards of care.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged top officials to improve infection testing and tracking, especially in states with high positivity rates.
Officials on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa also said dozens of US Marines have been infected at two bases there in what is feared to be a massive outbreak. The officials said the US military asked that the exact figure not be released.
“We now have strong doubts that the US military has taken adequate disease prevention measures,” Gov. Denny Tamaki told reporters.