The United States records 1 million coronavirus cases, amounting to almost a third of the global tally, while New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says he should have sounded the alarm earlier.
This story is being updated regularly throughout Wednesday. You can also stay informed with the latest episode of the Coronacast podcast.
Wednesday’s top stories
US confirms 1 million cases
The United States has recorded 1 million cases of coronavirus.
There are more than 3 million cases worldwide, with almost one third of those based in the US.
According to Johns Hopkins University, the US currently has 1,002,498 cases and that number continues to climb.
More than 57,000 Americans have died from COVID-19, rapidly approaching the number of Americans killed during the 20 years of the Vietnam War, where 58,220 died.
The US has far-outstripped Europe in terms of infections. It has some 770,000 more cases than Spain, the country with the second highest COVI-19 caseload.
Spain and Italy both have more than 200,000 cases, while France, Germany, the UK and Turkey all have over 100,000.
The US has 10 times more cases than Russia, which has more than 93,500 but that figure is on the rise.
According to Worldometer, another coronavirus tracking website, more than 20,000 new cases have been recorded every day in the US for the past month.
UK on track for one of Europe’s worst virus death tolls
A day after Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke of success in dealing with the outbreak, new figures showed the week ending April 17 was Britain’s deadliest since comparable records began in 1993.
Data published on Tuesday [local time] showed the The UK actually reached 24,000 deaths nine days ago and is on track to have one of the worst coronavirus death tolls in Europe.
In contrast, the UK Government’s current, official death toll stands at 21,092, but that figure only includes those who have died in hospital and does not include care homes.
The Office for National Statistics said 21,284 people had died in England by April 17, with mentions of COVID-19 on their death certificate.
Together with figures from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the total United Kingdom death toll was actually at least 24,000 as of April 19.
A slide produced during Downing Street’s daily news conference on Tuesday showed that with all coronavirus deaths included, the UK was tracking only behind the United States in total number of deaths 32 days after the first 50 COVID-19 deaths were reported.
It has prompted Health Secretary Matt Hancock to announce that from Wednesday the daily figure for deaths in the community — will also be published among the Government figures.
Mr Hancock also announced the UK’s testing scheme will be expanded to include all care home residents, people over the age of 65 with coronavirus symptoms, and those who have to travel to work.
Previously tests had only been available to hospital patients, frontline care workers and those designated as key workers.
‘The world should have listened’, WHO says
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, in an interview with Axios on HBO, was asked what he would change about his response to the virus, which has killed more than 17,500 in New York City alone.
“When we heard in December that China had a virus problem, and China said basically, ‘it was under control, don’t worry,’ we should’ve worried.”
Before that occurred World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said every country was responsible for its own response and they should have triggered all possible public health messages after the WHO’s warning at the end of January.
“The world should have listened to the WHO then carefully, because global emergency — the highest level of emergency — was triggered on January 30 when we only had 82 cases and no deaths in the rest of the world,” Dr Tedros said.
China angry with US and Australia
China has accused US politicians of telling lies after President Trump said Beijing could have stopped the coronavirus at its source.
Without naming Mr Trump, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said US political leaders were trying to deflect attention from their own insufficient response to the outbreak.
Earlier, the US President suggested America might seek damages from China for its failure to stop the spread of the disease.
The two countries have traded accusations about the origins of the virus and who’s responsible for the pandemic, while Australia has led calls for an independent investigation, which then led to threats from the Chinese ambassador that they would boycott trade with Australia.
Australia has now expressed its “regret” that China has released an account of a private call with Australia’s Foreign Affairs Secretary.
The Chinese Embassy says the head of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Frances Adamson, admitted during a phone conversation with ambassador Jingye Cheng that now is not the right time to begin an independent inquiry into the coronavirus pandemic.
DFAT said it notes with regret China’s release of “purported details” of official diplomatic exchanges, but it says Australia will not be responding by itself breaching long-standing diplomatic courtesies and professional practices.
Madagascan President spruiks unproven herbal cure
Madagascar’s president is touting a herbal tea to protect against coronavirus, but health professionals warn it’s unproven and could cause harm.
Madagascar’s President Andry Rajoelina promoted the drink, a bitter herbal extract called Covid Organics, on national television saying it will “change the course of history”.
The drink is being distributed for free in some schools that are reopening and in poor neighbourhoods, and one principal said that if students refuse the drink, they would not be permitted to attend classes.
The label on the bottle does not list the ingredients but the President said it is made from artemisia, a bitterroot that is used in some malaria drugs.
Medical experts are critical of the drink, pointing out that no scientific tests have been done on it.
France cancels Ligue 1 season
The French Government called off the Ligue 1 soccer season on Tuesday [local time] because of the coronavirus pandemic.
France is set to come out of lockdown on May 11.
“The 2019–20 season of professional sport, notably soccer, won’t be able to resume,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said.
France’s top two soccer divisions have 10 games remaining in their seasons, while Rugby’s Top 14 league, which has also been cancelled, had reached the semi-final stage.
Mr Philippe also said all events with more 5,000 people, like “big sporting and cultural events” will not take place before September.
Germany’s coronavirus infection rate edges back up
Germany’s coronavirus infection rate has edged up from earlier this month and the head of the Robert Koch Institute for infectious disease now says people should stay at home as much as they can despite a lockdown relaxation last week.
The virus reproduction rate, dubbed ‘R’, is now at 1.0 in Germany, said Lothar Wieler, president of the Robert Koch Institute.
That means one person with the virus infects one other on average. Earlier this month, the rate was at 0.7.
It comes as Germany began to ease lockdown measures, with Chancellor Angela Merkel set to review the restrictions with state leaders on Thursday.
Malaysian minister fined for breaching distancing rules
Malaysia’s deputy health minister has been fined $350 for breaking coronavirus lockdown rules.
Noor Azmi Ghazali was charged with 14 others after attending a meal at a religious school.
He was prosecuted after photos of the gathering on his Facebook page caused public anger. The minister has apologised for attending the meal.
Malaysia has arrested thousands of people for breaking restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.
On Monday, Human Rights Watch criticised the country for sending some of these violators to prison.