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Coronavirus outbreak: Why the number of COVID-19 cases has suddenly shot up | World News



Overnight, the number of people confirmed to have been infected with the coronavirus in China rose by a third.

More than 15,000 new cases of COVID-19 were added, bringing the total to over 60,000, with more than 1,300 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins CSSE.

The word out of China was that the spread of the coronavirus had not suddenly accelerated – but that technical advances had made spotting it more effective.

The surge was the result of adopting a new testing process, according to the Chinese authorities, using more sophisticated equipment to help spot when a suspected case was real.

But it is understood that health authorities in the centre of the outbreak – in Hubei – have also started to use a wider range of symptoms as a basis for deciding who is a confirmed case.

Initially, the focus was said to be on those who showed signs of pneumonia. Now, it is understood those who show other symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, are also being included.

WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said: “It is our current understanding that the new case definition widens the net, and includes not only lab-confirmed cases but also clinically diagnosed cases based on symptoms and exposure.”

He added that the Geneva-based United Nations health agency was seeking “further clarity” from China about recent updates to the way it defines cases.

The disease was first identified after a number of people mysteriously began to fall ill with pneumonia, in the Hubei city of Wuhan.

But, before pneumonia occurs, and in people who are symptomatic but may not develop pneumonia, COVID-19 can often cause a fever, a dry cough and other effects.

Problems with the availability of testing equipment required to identify coronavirus emerged soon after the outbreak began to mushroom.

Science publications have reported on shortages of testing kits, with manufacturers failing to keep pace with the rocketing numbers of cases. It has also been suggested that Hubei suffers from a lack of laboratory staff trained to use them.

A boy wears a cardboard box on his head at the Shanghai Railway station
A boy wears a cardboard box on his head at the Shanghai Railway station

Professor Choi Jae-wook, from the Korea Medical Association, said: “The reason the Chinese health authorities decided to change the diagnostic procedure by including the clinical diagnosis, I assume, is because they lack diagnostic kits, delaying treatment of those with symptoms.

“And since only a few companies are making these testing kits in such a short period of time, the authorities cannot rely on their quality.

“I don’t think the move was long overdue. We are still in the early stage of the epidemic.”

The tests kits allow technicians to look for tiny snippets of genetic material in bodily fluids taken during swabs that are the signature features of the coronavirus.

But they only work if the disease is sufficiently advanced in a patient.

So far, scientists do not know the number of infected people who display no symptoms.

China’s National Health Commission (NHC) said the sharp increase in the number of confirmed cases was as a result of a new, quicker diagnostic method using computerised tomography (CT) scans.

The NHC said it had diagnosed 13,332 of the new infections using the new equipment.

CT scanners, which are often used in the UK to check for cancer, had revealed lung infections, the Hubei health commission said, and enabled confirmation and faster isolation of new virus cases.

Hubei’s authorities had previously only allowed infections to be confirmed by the RNA tests, which can take days to process.

RNA, or ribonucleic acid, is a type of genetic material similar to DNA, and exists in all organisms like viruses.

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Coronavirus: The funeral home overwhelmed by New York’s conveyor belt of death | US News



The phone doesn’t stop ringing at the Gerard J Nuefeld funeral home in New York City.

Those who turn up at the door look bewildered and deeply anxious. Robert Lugo arrives sobbing into his protective mask.

He, like so many you see in this neighbourhood, is wearing gloves.

Funeral directors are trying their hardest to offer dignity to the dead
Funeral directors are trying their hardest to offer dignity to the dead

Robert is visibly shaken and it turns out his loss is especially raw. His grandmother, Ana Diaz, died last night at Elmhurst Hospital.

The hospital is at the centre of the COVID-19 outbreak. Staff there are exhausted dealing with the surge in patients, and protective equipment is in desperately short supply. One doctor described the situation as apocalyptic.

Robert breaks down as he tells me that this grandmother – “the glue” in his family – died without any family by her side.

It is an unfathomable burden for him to bear, and sadly, it is one so many are now forced to endure.

“My grandmother died alone,” he tells me, his voice breaking. “We didn’t even see her and couldn’t touch or talk to her. We couldn’t give her that boost of morale to say, hey, you know, you got to come out of this. We need you to come out of this. There was nothing.”

Ana Diaz (left) had just celebrated her 80th birthday
Ana Diaz (left) had just celebrated her 80th birthday

Little over a week ago, his family were all together celebrating her 80th birthday.

“She embraced every life she touched,” Robert says.

Now, half of her family have tested positive. They’re not only deprived of the chance to grieve her passing, but they’re isolated and struggling with their own symptoms too.

Joe Nuefeld Jr is working all hours alongside his father, trying to offer dignity to the dead and support their distraught families.

“The crematoriums really aren’t letting anybody in,” he tells me. “The cemeteries are, for the most part, telling people to stay in their cars and just watch the burial from the gravesite.”

New York City has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic
New York City has been badly hit by the coronavirus pandemic

He drives us to St Michael’s Crematorium.

A family that is following him in a car behind have turned up hoping they can get in, but they’re not even allowed through the gates.

Instead, they’re forced to hand over their candle to Joe so he can place it next to the coffin. He clutches it protectively in his hands as he drives through the grounds – conscious of how fleeting it feels for the relatives watching on.

“Sometimes when it’s so brief, it almost leaves them still feeling hollow,” Joe says. “Like, you know, what just happened? They don’t have enough time to process it. It’s heartbreaking. It’s really sad.”

Back at the funeral home, his father Joseph Sr says their work has been non-stop for a fortnight.

“It just got crazy… people are unfortunately passing away in big numbers,” he said.

“Because they live in this area and I’m the only funeral home left in this area, they’re coming to me.

“I’m trying to accommodate them as best I can… I think we had about 12 services scheduled. And shortly after I left the office, within two hours, I had three more services. And then this morning, as soon as we came in, we put on three or four more services.”

One doctor in New York described conditions in his hospital as 'apocalyptic'
One doctor in New York described conditions in his hospital as ‘apocalyptic’

I’m struck by just how stressful their job has become. This is a father and son who take pride and comfort in accommodating the many ceremonies and rituals this diverse neighbourhood desires.

There are more than 100 nationalities in the area – many who traditionally hold large gatherings to say goodbye to their relatives.

Joe Sr says they are trying to let individuals briefly see the caskets before they take them away, but they know they have to closely monitor numbers.

The father and son wear protective clothing where embalming the bodies. But like all undertakers, they are vulnerable to infected bodies.

Nonetheless, they are desperately determined to help a community that’s coming to terms with being separated at the most demanding of moments – a surreal and cruel consequence of this pandemic. Watching them work is both humbling and exhausting.

With the predicted peak of this virus two weeks away, their days aren’t getting any shorter.

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Coronavirus: Belarus president refuses to cancel anything – and says vodka and saunas will ward off COVID-19 | World News



Few measures have been enforced to curb coronavirus in Belarus – instead, people are being urged to drink vodka and go to saunas.

The country – specifically its president – has shrugged off concerns about the COVID-19 outbreak, starkly illustrated on Sunday with the nation’s football matches continuing as normal.

As most countries enforce strict measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, fans continued to shuffle into football grounds as they would any other weekend.

Few face masks were visible as FC Minsk fans watched their team play in Belarus
Few face masks were visible as FC Minsk fans watched their team play in Belarus
Belarus has no plans to postpone matches or cancel the football season
Belarus has no plans to postpone matches or cancel the football season

Few social distancing measures appear to be in force, but spectators at some grounds did have their temperatures checked before being granted entry.

A small number of fans opted to wear face masks while huddled together in packed stands, but they were few and far between.

Belarusian football organisers have said they have no intention of postponing matches or cancelling the season – and the country’s leader has also shown that he is keen for sporting fixtures to continue.

President Alexander Lukashenko took part in an ice hockey match on Saturday – controversially declaring that sport “is the best anti-virus remedy”.

At the event, he told a reporter: “It’s better to die standing on your feet than to live on your knees.”

Alexander Lukashenko (pictured here with Vladimir Putin) is against imposing strict coronavirus measures
Alexander Lukashenko (pictured here with Vladimir Putin) is against imposing strict coronavirus measures

When asked if there was anything that would stop him playing ice hockey, Mr Lukashenko replied: “It is possible, but why? I don’t understand. There are no viruses here.

“Did you see any of them flying around? I don’t see them too. This is a fridge.”

So far, 94 coronavirus cases have been reported in Belarus, a former Soviet nation that is home to 9.5 million people.

Mr Lukashenko, an avid ice hockey player who has been in power since 1994, has downplayed the need for social distancing – and Belarus is one of the only countries that has taken few measures to curb COVID-19’s spread.

Temperature checks were in force at some football matches - social distancing was not
Temperature checks were in force at some football matches – social distancing was not

In recent weeks, the president has suggested that Belarusians should drink 50ml of vodka a day to ward off the virus, but not at work – advice that is completely at odds with recommendations from the World Health Organisation.

He has also stated that regular trips to the sauna, working in the fields and having breakfast on time are the best ways to stay healthy – dismissing stricter measures imposed in neighbouring Russia and elsewhere as “frenzy and psychosis”.

Mr Lukashenko has also vowed that Belarus will still celebrate Victory Day on 9 May – a day when elderly veterans from World War Two parade through the streets. This is despite data that shows older people are more susceptible to contracting coronavirus in public spaces.

Professional football has ground to a halt around the world - not in Belarus
Professional football has ground to a halt around the world – not in Belarus

According to the Belarusian Telegraph Agency, the president said: “We are not cancelling anything. We will host all the events we have planned … Let God protect us from the coronavirus.”

In separate remarks on Friday, Mr Lukashenko said he “really liked” Donald Trump’s statements calling for US businesses to reopen and Americans to get back to work.

“There were many people urging me to close borders, enterprises and begin a nationwide quarantine. Back then I made a principled decision: we will implement a quarantine only when it is really needed,” he added.

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Coronavirus: Guns, marijuana and Steven Seagal movies – the lockdown exceptions around the world | World News



People in the UK have been told to remain in the house for all but essential travel and once-daily exercise in a bid to slow the spread of coronavirus – but countries around the world seem to have different interpretations of lockdown.

With more than one-fifth of the world’s population affected by COVID-19, here’s a snapshot of the lockdown exceptions that have been put in place:


In America, golf, guns and marijuana rate pretty high on the critical list.

Connecticut governor Ned Lamont added gun shops to his list of essential businesses, much to the shock and dismay of families of gun violence victims.

Texas attorney general Ken Paxton also issued a legal opinion saying emergency orders in his state cannot restrict gun sales.

Texas lieutenant governor Dan Patrick told a radio interviewer: “If you have a breakdown in society, well then our first line to defend ourselves is ourselves, so I think having a weapon is very important for your personal safety.”

In a move that would surely please President Trump, Arizona governor Doug Ducey included golf courses on his list of essential services.

Trump golf
The president is a golf lover and owns a clutch of courses

Officials in Phoenix encouraged the city’s 1.7 million residents to “get outside, get exercise and practice responsible social distancing” in golf courses, parks and trails.

New Hampshire governor Chris Sununu said flower shops are among the essentials.

His spokesman Ben Vihstadt said they provide essential services for funeral homes.

Several states where marijuana is legal, such as California and Washington, deemed pot shops and workers in the market’s supply chain essential.

DALY CITY, CA - APRIL 18: Leaves of a mature marijuana plant are seenin a display at The International Cannabis and Hemp Expo April 18, 2010 at the Cow Palace in Daly City, California. The two day Cannabis and Hemp Expo features speakers, retailers selling medical marijuana smoking paraphernalia and a special tent available for medical marijuana card holders to smoke their medicine. Voters in California will consider a measure on the November general election ballot that could make the State the
Marijuana is considered medicine by some

Erik Altieri, executive director of the National Organisation for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said: “Cannabis is a safe and effective treatment that millions of Americans rely on to maintain productive daily lives while suffering from diseases and ailments.

“It is the very definition of essential that these individuals can still access their medicine at this time.”


In New Zealand’s capital city of Wellington, United Video Hataitai has been declared an essential service.

The only video store in the city, it currently has a special offer on all Steven Seagal seven-day hires.

In a short video on the rental store’s Twitter page, a chipper looking employee tells customers: “Because it’s the apocalypse, we’ve got some really sweet deals going on.”

Before bursting into song, he advises: “Hunker down and enjoy the lockdown.”

New Zealand filmmaker and actor Taika Waititi shared the video, and after suggestions he should turn it into a film he joked “all the elements are there. It’s perfect”, before adding “do the deal”.


In France, shops specialising in pastry, wine and cheese have been declared essential businesses.

Some stereotypes, it appears, are richly deserved.

In France wine, pastry and cheese are absolute essentials
Bien sur, in France wine and croissants are considered essentials


Italy, which is ahead of most other countries in the outbreak, has the most stringent rules, with only essential businesses such as food shops and pharmacies remaining open.

The manufacturing sector has been temporarily shut down, although factories that make products like medical supplies will continue to operate after making conditions safer for employees.

What happens now with the coronavirus quarantine?

COVID-19: How does coronavirus quarantine work?


With more and more people stuck at home, dependency on the internet has increased the world over. People are relying on connectivity to communicate, stream movies and play games online in a bid to ward off cabin fever.

a laptop keyboard
Those stuck at home are turning to the internet

With that in mind, India has declared the information technology sector as essential.


Recognised for its vibrant religious life, people in Israel are permitted to gather for outdoor prayers, with a maximum of 10 worshippers standing two metres apart.


China was the first country to battle the virus, and authorities closed most businesses and public facilities beginning in late January but kept open hospitals, supermarkets and pharmacies.


Health care workers, law enforcement, utility workers, food production and communications are generally exempt from lockdowns across the world.

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