US could become coronavirus global epicentre, WTO warns

Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games to be postponed by a year

The United States could become the global epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak, the World Health Organisation warned on Tuesday. WHO spokeswoman Margaret Harris said there had been a “very large acceleration” in coronavirus infections in the US which had the potential of becoming the new epicentre.

Over the past 24 hours, 85% of new cases were from Europe and the US, she told reporters. Of those, 40% were from the US. Asked whether the US could become the new epicenter, Harris said cited by Reuters: “We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the US. So it does have that potential. We cannot say that is the case yet but it does have that potential.”

Some US state and local officials have decried a lack of coordinated federal action, saying having localities act on their own has put them in competition for supplies. US President Donald Trump acknowledged the difficulty in a tweet.  “The World market for face masks and ventilators is Crazy. We are helping the states to get equipment, but it is not easy,” he wrote.

Meanwhile, it became clear that Tokyo Olympics would be most probably postponed by a year. The decision will come in days, sources said on Tuesday. The Olympic Games have been the last major sporting event left untouched as the epidemic put most of the world in virtual lockdown. Until recently the International Olympic Committee and Japan repeated their insistence that the event would go ahead as scheduled, but now they committed to pressure. Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and IOC President Thomas Bach were to talk by phone on Tuesday on the matter.

On the economic side, business activity collapsed from Australia and Japan to Western Europe at a record pace in March, with data for the US later on Tuesday expected to be just as dire. “The coronavirus outbreak represents a major external shock to the macro outlook, akin to a large-scale natural disaster,” analysts at BlackRock Investment Institute said.

On Tuesday afternoon, confirmed coronavirus cases exceeded 392,000 across 194 countries and territories, with over 17,000 deaths linked to the virus.  Of the top 10 countries by case numbers, Italy had reported the highest fatality rate, at around 10%, which is reflective of its older population. The fatality rate globally is around 4.3%.

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