Coronavirus pandemic 'far from over' in Asia, WHO warns

Jon Henley
Photograph: Héctor Retamal/AFP via Getty Images

The Covid-19 pandemic is “far from over” in Asia, the World Health Organization has warned, as the number of coronavirus deaths in the US surpassed those in China for the first time.

The US has now recorded 3,415 deaths from the virus, with 165,000 confirmed cases, compared to China’s 3,309, according to Johns Hopkins University.

“China has slowed transmission of the virus and passed one peak in the outbreak,” said Tarik Jasarevic, a WHO representative. “The challenge now is to prevent a resurgence of new cases. This is going to be a long-term battle.”

China and South Korea have both delayed key national college entrance exams over growing fears of a second wave of coronavirus cases, underlining the difficulties countries face in returning to normal life even after successfully reining in infections.

China’s crunch two-day annual “gaokao” test, taken by more than 10 million students last year, will be pushed back to 7 and 8 July, authorities said, as 48 new infections were reported on Tuesday, all of them imported, reversing four days of declines.

South Korea, which after an early surge “flattened the curve” of new cases to an average of about 100 a day also postponed its annual college entrance exam and cancelled the planned reopening of schools, as groups of cases in churches, hospitals and nursing homes, as well as imported cases, continue to flare.

What is Covid-19?


It is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals.


What are the symptoms this coronavirus causes?


The virus can cause pneumonia-like symptoms. Those who have fallen ill are reported to suffer coughs, fever and breathing difficulties.

In the UK, the National Heath Service has defined the symptoms as:

  • a high temperature - you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • a new continuous cough - this means you've started coughing repeatedly


Should I go to the doctor if I have a cough?


Medical advice varies around the world - with many countries imposing travel bans and lockdowns to try and prevent the spread of the virus. In many place people are being told to stay at home rather than visit a doctor of hospital in person. Check with your local authorities.

In the UK, NHS advice is that anyone with symptoms should stay at home for at least 7 days. If you live with other people, they should stay at home for at least 14 days, to avoid spreading the infection outside the home.


How many people have been affected?


China’s national health commission confirmed human-to-human transmission in January. As of 31 March, more than 780,000 people have been infected in more than 170 countries, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

There have been over 37,800 deaths globally. Just over 3,200 of those deaths have occurred in mainland China. Italy has been worst affected, with over 11,500 fatalities, and there have been over 7,700 deaths in Spain. The US now has more confirmed cases than any other country - more than 164,000. Many of those who have died had underlying health conditions, which the coronavirus complicated.

More than 166,000 people are recorded as having recovered from the coronavirus.


According to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, the virus has infected more than 800,000 people worldwide and killed more than 40,000. About 3.6 billion people, more than 40% of humanity, are living in voluntary or mandatory confinement.

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Italy, which on Tuesday said its death toll had climbed by 837 to 12,428, the highest in the world, mourned its dead with a minute’s silence and flags flown at half mast, as southern Europe began to see the first glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.

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Covid-10 is “an injury that has hurt the whole country,” the mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, said on Tuesday after a priest read a prayer for the dead. “Together, we will get through this,” she said at a ceremony held outside Rome’s city hall.

The government extended its economically crippling and socially divisive lockdown until at least mid-April, but the rate of infection has declined dramatically, rising by about 4% a day so far this week against more than 60% a month ago.

However, the prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, said the country must not give up the gains it had made. The near three-week shutdown had been tough, Conte said, and “cannot last very long. But it will have to be lifted gradually.”

Spain, which has suffered the world’s second most deadly outbreak after Italy, hit another new record with 849 coronavirus deaths in 24 hours on Tuesday, while the number of confirmed cases rose by nearly 11% to 94,417.

The figure marked a slight increase on the previous day’s rate, but its equivalent last week was more than 20% every day. “The downward trend is continuing,” said Maria Jose Sierra of the emergency coordination unit.

Australia, which has not entered full lockdown but imposed tough social distancing rules earlier in the pandemic’s spread than both Italy and the US, on Tuesday also reported a sustained fall in the country’s rate of new infections.

Authorities reported a death toll of 19 for 4,400 cases nationally, with the daily rate of infections slowing to an average of 9% over the past three days from 25-30% a week earlier. But healthcare experts warned it was far too early to ease up. “We need to have weeks on end of decreasing numbers of new cases on a daily basis,” said Philip Russo, president of the Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control.

Related: Coronavirus mapped: which countries have the most cases and deaths?

Ireland, too, said the daily growth rate in confirmed cases had halved. Restrictions on social and commercial life have had “an enormous impact”, said Philip Nolan, chair of the Irish Epidemiological Modelling Group. He also warned against complacency, saying the rate would have to fall to “close to zero” for it to be suppressed.

In other developments:

  • Facebook and Twitter deleted posts from Brazil’s president Jair Bolsonaro and Venezuelan leader Nicolás Maduro for spreading coronavirus misinformation.

  • France announced 499 new deaths, the biggest increase since the start of the pandemic, bringing its total to 3,523 with 52,128 confirmed cases.

  • Iran reported 141 new deaths and 3,111 new cases of coronavirus, taking its totals to 2,898 and 44,606 respectively.

  • Shortages of protective health gear in India, facing an expected surge in cases, are forcing some doctors to use raincoats and motorbike helmets.

  • Russia recorded an increase of 500 cases, the biggest daily rise for the seventh day in a row, taking its total to 2,337 with 18 deaths. It also introduced severe punishments - including up to seven years in prison - for people breaking quarantine rules or spreading fake news about the coronavirus.

  • Indonesia confirmed 114 new coronavirus infections, bringing its total to 1,528, with 14 deaths.

  • A 12-year-old girl confirmed infected with Covid-19 has died in Belgium.

  • Germany reported a rise of 128 in its death toll to 583, with 61,913 confirmed cases, an increase of 4,615.

  • A study from Imperial College London suggested containment measures may already have saved up to 59,000 lives in 11 European countries.

In the US, authorities in Virginia, Maryland and Washington DC became the latest to ask citizens to stay at home, leaving about three-quarters of Americans in some form of lockdown.

Donald Trump sought to reassure Americans urgently needed equipment such as ventilators and personal protective gear was on its way, but warned that “challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days”.

Ursula von der Leyen, the European commission president, urged member states to respect the bloc’s core values amid fears restrictions imposed by some could erode democracy. Her statement came a day after Hungary’s parliament approved a bill allowing prime minister Viktor Orban to rule by decree with no end date.