(Reuters) – Here’s what you need to know about the coronavirus right now:
Passing the million milestone
There are now some 935,392 cases of coronavirus infection globally, as of the last Reuters tally on Thursday, meaning the 1 million mark will be surpassed in the next 24 hours at the current rate of increase. Given the widespread recognition that official national figures in many cases woefully under-represent the true spread of the virus, the real figure will be much higher. The death toll continues to rise sharply, with nearly 5,000 confirmed new fatalities in the last day for a total of 46,906. One small solace is that massive under-detection means the actual mortality rate – deaths divided by cases – is likely a lot lower than official figures imply.
(For an interactive graphic tracking the global spread, open https://tmsnrt.rs/3aIRuz7 in an external browser.)
Not working: labour markets suffer
Social security data released by Spain on Thursday underline the economic and human cost of measures put in place to arrest the spread of the virus: they reveal that the country has shed close to 900,000 jobs since it went into lockdown in mid-March. That is the highest monthly rise in unemployment ever, faster even than when Spain was in the eye of the storm of the 2008/2009 global recession.
U.S. data out later on Thursday will be equally grim: economists surveyed by Reuters expect on average that U.S. jobless claims will jump by about 3.5 million for March 22-28 week as lockdowns of cities mean there is even less likelihood of hiring than during a recession.
Things not under control
European Union governments may have worsened their current predicament of mask and medical equipment shortages by overestimating their response capacity, internal and public documents seen by Reuters show.
“There is strong level of preparedness in member states, most have measures in place” to detect and treat COVID-19, a European Commission official said at a closed-door meeting with diplomats from member states on Feb. 5, two weeks after China locked down nearly 60 million people in Hubei province, or roughly the equivalent population of Italy.
EU governments began to realise the gravity of the situation in March, but rather than focusing on joint action, many resorted to protectionist measures, raising trade barriers to hinder the export of medical equipment to their neighbours.
Isolating antibodies ‘effective’ at blocking coronavirus
A team of Chinese scientists has isolated several antibodies that it says are “extremely effective” at blocking the ability of the new coronavirus to enter cells, which eventually could be helpful in treating or preventing COVID-19.
Zhang Linqi at Tsinghua University in Beijing said a drug made with antibodies like the ones his team have found could be used more effectively than current approaches, including those utilising plasma, which is restricted by blood type.
The team is now focused on identifying the most powerful antibodies and possibly combining them to mitigate the risk of the new coronavirus mutating.
If all goes well, interested developers could mass produce them for testing, first on animals and eventually on humans.
(Open https://reut.rs/2JuUzGt in an external browser to see an interactive graphic that tracks the spread of coronavirus in your country.)
‘Shoot them dead’ – Philippines president warns lockdown violaters
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte said violaters of the country’s coronavirus lockdown measures could be shot for causing trouble and that abuse of medical workers was a serious crime that wouldn’t be tolerated.
“My orders to the police and military … if there is trouble and there’s an occasion that they fight back and your lives are in danger, shoot them dead,” he said in a televised address late on Wednesday.
“Is that understood? Dead. Instead of causing trouble, I will bury you.”
Duterte’s office typically calls his remarks hyperbole to underline his point.
(Compiled by Karishma Singh and Mark John)