IItaly, the United States, and Spain are now among the key centers in the global coronavirus outbreak, according to the latest statistics on confirmed cases.
China had been the hardest-hit country, with the highest case and death counts since the virus emerged there in late December.
Italy and Spain, however, have already reported more deaths. Spanish health officials reported 665 more deaths Thursday, bringing its total to more than 4,000.
Spain’s parliament approved a government request to extend the country’s state of emergency and a lockdown requiring businesses to close and people to stay home at least through mid-April.
With nearly 74,400 reported cases Thursday, Italy is also close to surpassing China in the number, and, given escalating case figures in recent days, the United States will too. As of early Thursday, the Johns Hopkins University figures put the United States at 69,210 confirmed cases, with more than 1,000 dead.
U.S. lawmakers are trying to speed medical aid to hospitals where doctors and nurses are facing shortages of protective equipment to keep them safe as they care for coronavirus patients.
Lockdowns in many states have badly hurt the U.S. economy, and a $2 trillion package passed by the Senate late Wednesday seeks to give loans to businesses, boost unemployment benefits and send checks to American households. The measure is expected to pass the House of Representatives Friday for signature by President Donald Trump.
Such economic measures have helped boost world markets this week. South Korea’s central bank announced Thursday it was providing unprecedented support to financial institutions.
COVID-19 has reached virtually every country, infecting more than 491,000 people and killing more than 22,000 as of early Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins.
More than one-third of the world’s population, 2.8 billion people, are subject to travel restrictions.
In response to sharp increases in infections in recent days, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe announced Thursday the country will prohibit visitors from 21 European countries and Iran. The ban was set for midnight Thursday Japan time. It comes after the nation had previously barred visitors from China and South Korea.
Leaders of the G-20 nations are set to hold a virtual meeting Thursday to discuss united efforts to respond to the crisis.
World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Wednesday governments must go beyond orders to ask people to stay home, saying that is just the first step in stopping the outbreak.
He said additional efforts should include expanding health care resources, implementing systems to track down every case in communities, boosting production and capability of testing, and identifying facilities to use for treating and isolating patients.
“These measures are the best way to suppress and stop transmission, so that when restrictions are lifted, the virus doesn’t resurge,” Tedros said.