International Covid-19 update: Virus 'ten times worse than swine flu', 20 000 dead in Italy

2020-04-13 19:38

The novel coronavirus is 10 times more deadly than swine flu, which caused a global pandemic in 2009, the World Health Organization has warned, stressing a vaccine would be necessary to fully halt transmission.

AFP reports that WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual briefing on Monday from Geneva that the organisation was constantly learning about the new virus sweeping the globe, which has now killed nearly 115 000 people and infected over 1.8 million.

"We know that Covid-19 spreads fast, and we know that it is deadly, 10 times deadlier than the 2009 flu pandemic," he said.

WHO says 18 500 people died of "swine flu", or H1N1, which was first uncovered in Mexico and the United States in March 2009, but the Lancet medical estimated the toll to be between 151 700 and 575 400.

The Lancet review included estimated deaths in Africa and Southeast Asia that were not accounted for by the WHO.

The outbreak, which was declared a pandemic in June 2009 and considered over by August 2010, turned out to be not as deadly as first feared.

Tedros lamented that some countries are seeing a doubling of cases every three to four days, but stressed that if countries were committed to "early case-finding, testing, isolating (and) caring for every case and tracing every contact" they could rein in the virus.

More than half of the planet's population is currently staying home as part of efforts to stem the spread of the virus, but Tedros warned that "our global connectedness means the risk of re-introduction and resurgence of the disease will continue".

Meanwhile, Ghebreyesus also said that only a safe and effective vaccine would fully halt the spread of Covid-19.

"Our global connectedness means the risk of re-introduction and resurgence of Covid-19 will continue," Ghebreyesus said, stressing that "ultimately, the development and delivery of a safe and effective vaccine will be needed to fully interrupt transmission."

A vaccine is thought to be at least 12 to 18 months away.

New York death toll passes 10 000

The death toll from the new coronavirus in New York state - the epicenter of America's deadly pandemic - has passed 10 000, its Governor Andrew Cuomo said on Monday, AFP reports. 

Cuomo said 671 people had died in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of fatalities in the state to 10 056.

Italy’s death toll continues to grow

AFP reports that Italy's death toll from the novel coronavirus topped 20 000 on Monday but its number of critically ill patients dropped for the tenth successive day.

The 566 new deaths reported by the civil protection service take Italy's fatalities total to 20 465 - officially second in the world behind the United States.

The drop in patients receiving intensive care from a peak of 4 068 on April 3 to 3 260 on Monday confirmed a general improvement in Italy's Covid-19 trends.

The rise in new infections dropped to a new low of just 2%.

The Mediterranean country last week extended its national lockdown until 3 May.

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