The coronavirus death toll in hardest-hit Italy rose to over 5,000 even as China reported 39 cases
Rome: Nearly one billion people around the world were confined to their homes on Sunday, as the coronavirus death toll crossed 13,000 and factories were shut in worst-hit Italy after another single-day fatalities record.
The raging pandemic has forced lockdowns in 35 countries across the globe, disrupting lives, travel and businesses as governments scramble to shut borders and unleash hundreds of billions in emergency measures to avoid a widespread virus-fuelled economic meltdown.
More than 300,000 infections have been confirmed worldwide, with the situation increasingly grim in Italy where the death toll spiked to more than 5,000 over a third of the global total.
The Mediterranean nation of 60 million is now the epicentre of the disease, which first emerged in central China late last year before marching out to the rest of the world.
Italy has now reported more deaths than mainland China and third-placed Iran combined, and it has a death rate of 8.6 % among confirmed COVID-19 infections, significantly higher than in most other countries.
Across the Atlantic, more than one third of Americans were adjusting to life in various phases of lockdown, including in New York, Chicago and Los Angeles, the three biggest US cities. Other parts of the United States are expected to ramp up restrictions as well.
"This is a time of shared national sacrifice, but also a time to treasure our loved ones," US President Donald Trump said. "We're going to have a great victory."
As world leaders have vowed to fight the pandemic, the number of deaths and infections has continued to rise, especially in Europe the main global hotspot.
Spain reported a 32% spike in new deaths on Saturday, and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned in a TV address that the nation needs to prepare for "very hard days ahead".
Fatalities in France jumped to 562 as police officials said helicopters and drones were being deployed to boost the government's attempts to keep people in their homes.
The unprecedented measures to counter the spread of COVID-19 have shredded the international sports calendar, and pressure is mounting on Olympic organisers to postpone the 2020 Tokyo Games.
The pandemic has bludgeoned global stock markets, and the United States, the world's biggest economy is preparing a huge emergency stimulus package that could top 1 trillion.
Millions have been ordered to stay home in the United States.
The drastic confinement measures follow the example of China, where the lockdown of Hubei province appears to have paid off. Wuhan, Hubei's capital, is where the virus was first detected.
China reported its first local infection in four days on Sunday. While the number of cases in the mainland has slumped dramatically since the crisis began, there are fears of "imported" cases from other hotspots like Europe.
And India went into lockdown on Sunday with a one-day nationwide self-imposed curfew called ‘Janatha Curfew’.
With PTI Inputs
Last Updated 23, Mar 2020, 9:45 AM