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Vietnam Latest to Lock Down, While US Braces for Huge Death Toll


Residents wearing protective masks wait for coronavirus testing at a makeshift rapid testing center in Hanoi, Vietnam March 31, 2020.

U.S. officials say Americans should be prepared for a potential 100,000 to 240,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus outbreak, while stressing the need to keep social distancing measures in place to give the best chance of lessening the toll.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he hopes the number will not go that high, but that realistically people should be ready.

“People are suffering. People are dying,” he said. “It's inconvenient from a societal standpoint, from an economic standpoint to go through this. But this is going to be the answer to our problems. So, let's all pull together and make sure, as we look forward to the next 30 days, we do it with all the intensity and force that we can.”

Countries all over the world have locked down cities, regions and even their entire nations to try to stop the virus from spreading.

One of the latest to put in place a two-week ban on all but essential activities is Vietnam, which started Wednesday.

Last week, New Zealand shut down restaurants, bars, offices and schools. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Wednesday it is too early to tell to what extent those measures have helped so far and advocated more testing to actively track down infections and stop new transmissions.

Her government reported 61 new cases to push New Zealand’s total to 708

Vietnam has ordered a national lockdown, as well as moved to decrease public transit, Ho Chi Minh, March 31, 2020.
Vietnam has ordered a national lockdown, as well as moved to decrease public transit, Ho Chi Minh, March 31, 2020.

"If virus is in the community in this way... then worst thing we can do is to relax and be complacent, and allow the silent spread," Ardern said.

In South Korea, where mass testing has helped level off local transmission rates, official reported 101 new cases Wednesday. The country also started enforcing new 14-day quarantines for anyone entering the country.

The risks of imported cases undermining successes in controlling community spread of COVID-19 have prompted similar measures in China, which for several months was by far the world leader in coronavirus cases but now has become a sign for hope with gradual lifting of lockdown restrictions.

The United States, Italy and Spain remain the global hotspots with the most cases and deaths.

German health officials said Wednesday there were about 5,500 new cases there, putting the country on track to soon become the next to surpass China.

Meanwhile, in keeping with a plea from U.N. chief Antonio Guterres for parties in the world’s conflicts to take this opportunity to halt their fighting, the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday urged Afghanistan’s warring sides to implement a cease-fire.

The Council "called on the political leadership of Afghanistan to put aside their differences and put the interest of the country first."