Spanish Virus Deaths Pass 20,000; Italy’s Daily Count Eases

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Spain became the second European country after Italy to reportmore than 20,000 deaths from the coronavirus as some governments across the region move to relax measures brought in to stem the pandemic.

Fatalitiesin Spain increased by 565 to 20,043, according to data published on Saturday, while the number of cases rose by 4,499 to 191,726. A top official said Saturday that the presence of the virus in Spain was “diminishing”

“This is not over yet,” Fernando Simon, the government’s top scientific adviser on the pandemic, said in Madrid. “We can’t throw away all the efforts we have made in past weeks.”

In Italy the number of daily deaths eased to 482, the fewest since April 12. The country logged another 3,491 new cases, near yesterday’s level, leaving total cases at 175,925. Europe’s hardest-hit country last week extended its lockdown until May 3, even though there are signs that outbreak is peaking.

In Germany, which this week agreed to begin steps to return to normal life from Monday, new casesclimbed the most in a week. France reported 642 new deaths, the smallest increase infive days, while the number of hospitalized patients, including those in intensive care, declined further.

“The decline in the need for equipment and staffing for intensive care is confirmed, but we’re still at an exceptional level, far above the usual maximum in France,” the French Health Ministry said in a statement Saturday.

Fallout from the coronavirus is likely to trigger the worst recession in the European Union’s history and member nations have beenstruggling to come up with a coordinated response to the crisis. The lack of leadership has been compounded by President Donald Trump’s suspicion of international cooperation. This week he suspended U.S. funding for theWorld Health Organization, saying it had botched the response to the pandemic.

A group of 13 countries including Germany, France and the U.K. issued a joint statement Saturday noting the “critical role” of the WHO in tackling the virus outbreak. In an apparent rebuke to Trump, the so-called Ministerial Coordination Group on Covid-19, said a “strong and coordinated global health response” is needed.

Trump is “a danger for people’s health, not just in his own country,” according to the parliamentary leader of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s junior coalition partner. “If he withholds funding for the WHO, he only wants to distract attention from his own mistakes,” Social Democrat caucus chief Rolf Muetzenich said in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine.

Economic Damage

Next week promises to be crucial for European investors as they try to gauge theeconomic impact of the outbreak. On Thursday, global data will start to quantify the damage, while on the same day the EU is due to hold a summit to agree on its rescue package and the U.K. is set to revise its borrowing plans.

Deaths in the U.K. jumped by 888 from Friday, with the total death toll topping 15,000. Only Spain, Italy and France have suffered more deaths in Europe. More than 5,500 new cases were confirmed, with the British Medical Association warning that the country risks running out ofprotective equipment for its hospital staff.

The disease could kill 300,000 people in Africa this year, despite assertive government measures to restrict social interaction, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. The chief of staff to Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari succumbed to the virus on Friday. Abba Kyari, an ardent supporter of state intervention in the economy, was widely regarded asBuhari’s closest adviser.

The coronavirus is also starting to inflict damage on companies in the region. South African Airways plans to lay off its entire4,700-strong workforce after failing to persuade the government to provide more financial help, a move that threatens to ground the 86-year-old national carrier for good.

— With assistance by Iain Rogers

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