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Coronavirus: latest global developments as toll tops 200,000

AFP – The new coronavirus has infected more than 200,000 globally since the beginning of the outbreak in December, according to any AFP tally Wednesday.

Nearly 200,680 people around the world have been infected, with more than 8,000 deaths, as of 1300 GMT Wednesday.

The tallies are calculated using data collected by AFP offices from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Here are the latest developments in the coronavirus crisis:

– Europe ‘underestimated’ threat –

The president of the European Commission admits political leaders in the EU “underestimated” the magnitude of the danger posed by the coronavirus.

Ursula von der Leyen tells Germany’s Bild newspaper “it is clear that this is a virus that will keep us busy for a long time yet.”

EU leaders agree to impose an entry ban on travellers from outside the bloc for 30 days.

– Strict lockdown –

France follows Italy and Spain in imposing general lockdown for at least 15 days. Belgium orders its citizens to stay at home until at least April 5.

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Germany orders its population to stay at home while Britain and Israel call on citizens to avoid all non-essential travel.

In Russia, where borders are closed to foreigners, schools will close from March 23 to April 12, and flights to Britain, the US and the United Arab Emirates will be suspended from March 20.

In Pakistan, Prime Minister Imran Khan says the country cannot afford the large-scale lockdowns undertaken in the West, fearing this could devastate the fragile economy.

– Economic concerns –

German carmaker BMW says it will close European and South African factories accounting for half its output for a month.

The Trump administration and the US Central Bank announce massive financial assistance to the most affected businesses and households.

– State of emergency –

Switzerland, Armenia, Moldova and Kazakhstan as well as two regions in Ukraine and one in Kyrgyzstan declare a state of emergency. Brazil’s two largest cities, Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, announce the same.

– Global toll tops 8,000 –

Since the virus first emerged in late December, 8,092 people have died around the world, with the global number of cases at 200,680, according to an AFP tally based on official sources as of 1300 GMT Wednesday.

The worst affected countries are mainland China, with 3,237 deaths, out of 80,894 cases, of whom 69,601 have been cured. Italy follows with 2,503 deaths, 31,506 cases, Iran 1,135 deaths, around 17,000 cases, Spain 558 deaths and 13,716 cases and France with 175 deaths and 7,730 cases.

Turkey, Bangladesh, Moldova and Burkina Faso report their first deaths.

– Britain’s nightmare scenario –

In Britain, scientists say infections and deaths will spiral and hundreds of thousands could die and the health system be swamped if there is only a focus on delaying and slowing infections.

The government’s scientific adviser says a reasonable estimate is 55,000 cases in the country.

Legislation will be introduced Thursday to allow arrests for public health reasons and to call back retired medical services staff.

– Cruise ship stranded –

More than 1,700 people are stranded on a cruise and a cargo ship off the coast of South Africa’s Cape Town over fears some are infected.

– Pope advises gestures of affection –

Pope Francis stresses the importance of families and friends making small gestures such as hugs and phone calls during times of isolation.

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