Worldwide COVID-19 infection nearing 1.5 million cases

Global cases of COVID-19 approached 1.5 million, as both the US and the UK recorded their deadliest day this week from the pandemic.

Despite the grim US death toll for Tuesday—1,858 in total, including 806 in New York City—White House taskforce officials said on Wednesday night there were signs isolation measures were working and the death toll may not be as high as the 100,000 and 240,000 feared.

Dr Deborah Birx, the US virus response coordinator, said: “We carefully looked at Italy and Spain and we are doing much better in many cases than several other countries and we’re trying to understand that. We believe that our healthcare delivery system in the United States is quite extraordinary.”

More than 88,538 people have died worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tracker. The number of confirmed infections is approaching 1.5 million, although it is believed to be far higher due to under-reporting by some countries.

Official UK figures showed 938 more people had died in hospitals, bringing the total to 7,097, although the true death toll is likely to be significantly higher.

US President Donald Trump

During Wednesday’s White House briefing, Trump also responded to reports that US intelligence officials had warned his office as far back as November that a coronavirus was spreading through China’s Hubei region. According to US media outlet ABC News, a report from the military’s National Center for Medical Intelligence (NCMI) said it could be “a cataclysmic event”and would threaten US forces in Asia.

Trump said: “When I learned about the gravity of [the outbreak] was some time just prior to closing the country to China. So I don’t know exactly, but I’d like to see the information.” Trump imposed restrictions on travellers from China on 2 February, and did not declare an emergency until March.