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World boosts anti-virus measures as COVID-19 tightens hold in past week

(Xinhua)    15:22, March 21, 2020

BEIJING, March 21 (Xinhua) -- The world is scrambling to pool resources and upgrade measures in fighting the deadly coronavirus as it spread further in the past week with repeat record-breaking single-day caseloads.

COVID-19 seems to reach a new and tragic milestone every day, as more than 210,000 cases have been reported globally, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Friday at a press conference.

The number is a sharp rise on the 153,517 confirmed cases as of Sunday.

"Every loss of life is a tragedy," Tedros said, calling it "motivation" to do everything to stop transmission of the virus.

Italy, an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, reported 17,506 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours as of midnight Thursday, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in the country to 104,591, according to the daily situation report released by the WHO late Friday.

In Italy, 627 patients died of COVID-19 in a 24-hour span on Friday, the highest single day of deaths, bringing the country's COVID-19 death toll to 4,032, according to official data. In the 24 hours prior to Friday, 427 people had died.

The country announced on Friday that it would call up the military to help enforce a national coronavirus lockdown in the hardest-hit parts of the country.

Across the Atlantic, the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States reached 16,605 with 216 deaths Friday, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University.

The country is now trying everything to expand supply of protective equipment. Vice President Mike Pence said on Friday that his country is trying to secure more masks for health care workers as well as more ventilators for sick Americans who may need treatment.

Pence urged every American to postpone elective medical procedures over concerns of insufficient ventilators.

With coronavirus cases soaring, doctors, nurses and other front-line medical workers across the United States are facing a dire shortage of masks, surgical gowns and eye gear to protect them from the virus.

Meanwhile, Iran, the hardest-hit country in the Middle East, urged the United States to remove sanctions as the total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in the Islamic republic edged toward 20,000 on Friday.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani asked the American people to press Washington to lift sanctions against Tehran, according to Iran's presidential website.

"U.S. sanctions have targeted major sectors of Iran's financial and economic system, which has inflicted hundreds of billions of dollars of loss to Iran's economy and people," said Rouhani.

In a rare relief to people worrying about the epidemic, the pace of daily new infections in South Korea has shown marked signs of slowing since earlier this month, according to a report by the Yonhap news agency.

But the authorities are still on high alert over new clusters of infections, including at a call center in Seoul's Guro district and nursing hospitals in Daegu and surrounding North Gyeongsang Province.

In the thick of the world's fight against the pandemic, the WHO called on people to remain hopeful and cited the case of Wuhan in China.

Wuhan, a city that has borne the brunt of the COVID-19 outbreak in China, provides hope for the rest of the world that even the most severe situation of COVID-19 can be turned around, said Tedros.

Calling it a "success", he noted Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province, reported no new cases for the first time since the epidemic outbreak started.

According to the Health Commission of Hubei Province, no new infections or suspected cases of the novel coronavirus were reported on Thursday in Wuhan, marking two days in a row of zero reports at the epicenter of the epidemic in a months-long battle with the deadly virus.

"The experience of cities and countries that have pushed back this virus give hope and courage to the rest of the world," Tedros said at a daily briefing.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: He Zhuoyan, Bianji)

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