Donald Trump in an address to the UN General Assembly sought to shift the blame to China, saying the Asian nation ‘unleashed this plague onto the world’
The US has passed 200,000 deaths from the COVID-19 pandemic, as a record-breaking wave of new infections forces authorities in Europe to reimpose lockdown restrictions.
The country hit the figure just 41 days before a presidential election and as the WHO warned that new cases worldwide have risen to record highs.
US President Donald Trump — who faces a tough re-election fight and is trailing former US vice president Joe Biden, the Democratic Party’s candidate, in the polls — said that the 200,000 milestone was “a shame” and deflected blame onto China.
Trump used a video address to the annual UN General Assembly to attack Beijing for not stopping the spread of what he called the “China virus.”
“We must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world — China,” he told the UN’s diplomatic showcase event, which is being held almost entirely online because of the pandemic.
Trump has repeatedly played down the seriousness of the pandemic, even as the US has suffered one of the world’s highest death tolls.
More than 31.6 million people have been infected worldwide and nearly 972,000 have died from COVID-19 since the novel coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, China, late last year.
The WHO late on Monday reported that almost 2 million infections were recorded around the globe in the single week to Sunday.
The 6 percent increase from the previous week is “the highest number of reported cases in a single week since the beginning of the epidemic,” the UN health agency said.
In Europe, a surge forced British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to announce fresh steps to try to allay the rising death toll.
“To help contain the virus, office workers who can work effectively from home should do so,” the government said, despite fears of a devastating economic impact.
New rules are to come into force for pubs and other hospitality venues today, while plans to allow fans back into sporting events have been ditched.
Several Premier League soccer players have tested positive, sending them into isolation and forcing games to be postponed.
Johnson said the new restrictions could last up to six months and called for a collective effort to “get through this winter together.”
His scientific advisers had said that the UK could see a devastating 50,000 coronavirus cases a day by the middle of next month if no action is taken.
“Never in our history has our collective destiny and our collective health depended so completely on our individual behavior,” said Johnson, who, like Trump, has been widely criticized for his handling of the pandemic.
Even with citizens weary of months of social distancing and previously unthinkable restrictions on their lives, hundreds of millions face harsher measures to come.
After months of brutal lockdown was eased, Spanish Minister of Health Salvador Illa on Tuesday called on Madrid residents to limit their movements and social contact to the “essential.”
About 850,000 people in part of the Madrid region are again under lockdown.
Across Europe, hundreds of major events have been scaled back or canceled.
For the first time since 1944, the Nobel prize ceremony would not take place as normal in Stockholm this year and would instead be televised.
The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Norway in December would also be scaled back.
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told reporters that fighting the pandemic remained “a very big challenge” as his country extended mandatory mask wearing and reinstated some restrictions imposed earlier this year.
“I am still relatively young, but I have been part of the Austrian government for many years and I thought I had already been through a lot politically,” the 34-year-old conservative leader said in an interview.
“The corona crisis now exceeds all previous experiences, of course,” he said.
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