DEATH TOLL CROSSES 21,000
At least 21,867 deaths have been recorded since the virus first emerged in December, according to an AFP tally compiled at 1200 GMT Thursday based on official sources. More than 481,230 declared cases have been registered in 182 countries and territories. The countries with the most deaths are Italy with 7,503 out of 74,386 declared infections, Spain with 4,088 deaths out of 56,188 cases, mainland China with 3,281 deaths out of 81,218 cases, Iran with 2,234 deaths out of 29,406 cases, and France with 1,331 fatalities out of 25,233 cases. Since 1900 GMT Wednesday, the West Bank and Croatia announced their first deaths.
WHO SEES 'ENCOURAGING SIGNS'
At least 258,068 of those have been in Europe, the worst-hit continent. The World Health Organization's European office says it sees "encouraging signs" on the continent but cautions it is too soon to say whether the worst had passed.
Looming global recessions
International ratings agency S&P Global warns the Covid-19 pandemic will push Britain and the euro area into recession this year, with their economies expected to shrink by as much as two percent. Austria's economy is predicted to shrink at least 2.5 percent in 2020. Singapore's economy shrinks 2.2 percent year-on-year in January-March, its biggest contraction since 2008 during the first quarter.
France calls on its army
The French military joins the virus fight as President Emmanuel Macron launches "Operation Resilience", focused on helping people and public services in France and its overseas territories.
China cuts international flights
China is set to drastically cut its international flight routes in a bid to blunt the number of imported cases of the new coronavirus, the civil aviation authority said. Flights out of China will be capped at just one route a week to each country, with international airlines also permitted only one route. China has not reported any new domestic infections from the deadly virus for two consecutive days, but imported cases have now surpassed 500.
Pope Francis tests negative
Pope Francis was reported to have tested negative for the novel coronavirus after a person in his residence was said to have contacted Covid-19. Several Italian newspapers with reputable sources in the Vatican said the Italian clergyman who got sick had lived for years in the pope's Saint Martha's residence.