Coronavirus: More than 100,000 infections around world, as UK sees second death and dramatic rise in cases

Number of patients in Britain jumps to more than 160

Zoe Tidman
Friday 06 March 2020 23:09 GMT
Health secretary announces second UK coronavirus death

The global tally of people diagnosed with coronavirus passed 100,000 on Friday, while the number of cases in the UK saw its biggest jump to date.

Matt Hancock, the health secretary, confirmed a second person with Covid-19 had now died in Britain, as the number of patients in the country rose to 164 – up from 116 the day before. In other developments:

  • More than 4,000 people have been placed in quarantine across New York state, where 33 people have been diagnosed with Covid-19, according to governor Andrew Cuomo
  • Italy’s death toll rose by nearly 50 on Friday to 197, while the number of confirmed cases surpassed 4,000
  • Boris Johnson announced £46m extra funding for research into developing a coronavirus vaccine, saying he hopes one would be ready to use in around a year
  • Facebook shut its London offices over coronavirus after an employee tested positive
  • Two teenagers were arrested over an attack on a Singaporean man in London, during which they allegedly shouted “I don’t want your coronavirus in my country”

At least 3,400 people have died across the world after being infected with Covid-19, figures showed on Friday.

The US saw its death toll rise to 15, after another person who had tested positive for the virus died in Washington – bringing the total number of fatalities in the state up to 12. Donald Trump has signed an $8.3bn (£6.4bn) emergency funding bill to combat the disease - but also claimed erroneously that its spread had been "stopped" and that cases were "very few because we have been very strong at the borders".

Two people have now died in the UK who were both suffering from underlying health conditions, according to the health secretary. An elderly man died at Milton Keynes Hospital on Thursday after testing positive, it was announced on Friday evening.

Meanwhile, Downing Street said it was “accelerating work” on the next phase of its response to the virus, saying it was upping efforts to delay its spread. The decision followed warnings from the chief medical officer that it is “highly likely that the infection will spread in a significant way”, according to a No 10 spokesperson.

Multiple countries announced their first confirmed cases of Covid-19 on Friday, including Colombia, Togo and Serbia.

The Vatican also revealed its first positive diagnosis, saying that a patient was being treated within its walls after attending a three-day conference nearby. ​Pope Francis – who has cancelled several public events in recent weeks after suffering from a slight cold – tested negative for coronavirus on Tuesday.

The Netherlands reported its first death from the infection on Friday, after a 86-year-old man died at Rotterdam hospital.

The growing number of cases and deaths in new countries came as the World Health Organisation (WHO) urged nations to make containing the deadly virus their top priority.

The UN agency stressed that slowing down the epidemic allowed hospitals to prepare and saves lives, while warning that there was no evidence that spread would wane as the northern hemisphere gets warmer.

“It is a false hope to say yes it will just disappear in summertime, like influenza virus,” the executive director of WHO’s emergencies programme, Dr Mike Ryan, said. “There is no evidence right now to suggest that that will happen.”

Some countries announced stricter measures to combat the virus’ spread, with France saying it would close schools in badly-hit areas for two weeks. The country counted more than 600 cases of coronavirus on Friday, jumping by 190 compared to the day before, according to the head of the public health service, Jerome Salomon.

Meanwhile in Italy – the worst-hit European country – cases soared to 4,636 compared to 3,858 on Thursday. Its death toll rose by 49 to reach 197, according to the Civil Protection Agency.

China’s Hubei province, where the outbreak started, reported zero new cases over 24 hours for the first time during the outbreak, excluding its capital Wuhan, where the first cases of Covid-19 were reported last year.

Companies also announced infections among their staff, with Facebook shutting its London office for deep-cleaning after an employee was diagnosed with the virus and British Airways saying two baggage handlers had tested positive.

The UN also took action amid Covid-19’s spread, saying that key meetings in the run-up to its climate summit in Glasgow would be cancelled.

The number of cases rose to 164 in the UK on the same day that the PM announced extra funding to develop a vaccine to fight the infection, saying he hoped a vaccine could be developed in about a year.

The announcement followed the UK’s chief scientific adviser telling BBC Radio 4’s Today that he did not believe one will be discovered in time for the current outbreak.

“It is not unreasonable to assume that we will end up with a vaccine and we may do so in a year or 18 months,” Sir Patrick Vallance said, “which is remarkable when you consider just a few years ago it would have taken 20 years to do that.”

The UK government has attempted to reassure the public that they will continue to have necessary food and other supplies amid shortage fears driven by Covid-19.

George Eustice, the environment secretary, held talks with supermarket and trade body bosses over food supply contingencies on Friday and said he was reassured retailers were taking “all the necessary steps” to keep shelves well-stocked.

Meanwhile in the UK, two teenagers were arrested on suspicion of assaulting a Singaporean student, allegedly shouting about coronavirus as they launched their attack.

Additional reporting by agencies

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