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Coronavirus latest: World Health Organization urges more tests for COVID-19

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WHO secretary-general Tedros Adhanom
WHO secretary-general Tedros Adhanom   -   Copyright  AP
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"Test, test, test".

That was the message from the World Health Organization (WHO) on Monday as it urged countries to check more people for COVID-19.

"The most effective way to prevent infections and save lives is breaking the chains of transmission," said Tedros Adhanom, director-general of WHO.

"And to do that we must test and isolate.

"You cannot fight a fire blindfolded. And we can't fight this pandemic if we don't know who is infected."

Adhanom also expressed concern about the virus reaching low-income countries. COVID-19 is now in at least half of African countries.

"As the virus moves to low-income countries, we are deeply concerned about the impact it could have among populations with high HIV prevalence or among malnourished children.

"That's why we're calling on every country and every individual to do everything they can do to stop transmission," said Adhanom.

"Washing your hands will reduce risk of infection but it's also an act of solidarity because it reduces the risk you will infect others in your community and around the world. Do it for yourself, do it for others."

The World Health Organization's update comes with Spain now the fourth most infected nation in the world after reporting 1,000 new cases of coronavirus, taking total infections to 8,744.

In neighbouring France, the country's national health director Jérôme Salomon said on Monday that the situation in the country was "very worrying" and "deteriorating rapidly".

"Many people have not understood that you have to stay at home," Salomon said on Monday in an interview with France Inter, adding that this has prevented the country from slowing down the epidemic.

President Emmanuel Macron is set to speak tonight amid speculation that the country could impose more confinement measures.

France has a total of 6,633 cases, with 148 deaths recorded.

It comes as the death toll in Europe surpassed 2,000, with several countries reporting sobering increases.

Western Europe has been slowing down activity significantly amidst the case increases, with Italy and Spain already under full lockdown. Germany, meanwhile, partially closed its borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark.

At the global level, coronavirus cases have surpassed those in China.

At least 88,000 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed worldwide, compared with 81,000 in China, according to a count of cases by researchers at Johns Hopkins University.

At a glance: Key coronavirus developments

Italy's death rate passes 2,000

A further 349 people have died from coronavirus in Italy in just 24 hours, Italy's civil protection agency revealed on Monday evening.

It means the country's overall death toll has now passed 2,000 people.

Per capita, it is the hardest-hit country in the world and its death rate per 1,000 infections is the highest globally.

There is also little sign that the disease is showing any sign of slowing, with 3,200 new cases reported on Monday.

"Figures continue to rise. We will soon reach the point where we will no longer have any beds for intensive care," warned Lombardy governor Attilio Fontana in an interview with Sky TG24 on Sunday.

Lombardy's top health official, Giulio Gallera, had already made similar remarks: "In Lombardy, we still have 15 to 20 intensive therapy beds. We are close to the point of no return."

According to Fontana, the setup of a temporary hospital with 500 places for intensive therapy is being planned in two pavilions at the Milan Fair.

Italy's national health institute chief Silvio Brusaferro said it is not known if Italy is reaching its peak and might start seeing the number of new cases decline.

Deaths in Spain double in a day to 288

Spanish health authorities said deaths from the coronavirus have more than doubled in 24 hours, while total infections approached 8,000 on Sunday.

The Health Ministry said Spain has recorded 288 deaths since the start of the pandemic, up from 136 on Saturday.

Spain currently has 7,753 confirmed infections, up from 5,700 on Saturday, with around half of them concentrated in the capital of Madrid.

The jump comes a day after Spain's government declared a state of alarm and took extraordinary measures to limit movement to commuting to work and necessary errands.

It has also closed restaurants, bars, most retail shops and reduced public transport.

Partially closed borders

Germany will partially close its borders with France, Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg and Denmark as it steps up efforts to stem the spread of the new coronavirus.

Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said the new checks will take effect at 8 a.m. Monday.

People who commute across the border to work will still be able to cross, as will goods. However, people "without a valid reason to travel will no longer be allowed to enter and leave” Germany, added Seehofer.

The minister stressed that German citizens in the neighbouring countries will be allowed back in.

Germany had confirmed nearly 4,000 infections with the virus by Saturday, and authorities have reported 11 deaths.

Germany’s northern neighbour, Denmark, and eastern neighbours Poland and the Czech Republic already closed their own frontiers in recent days.

Germany also has borders with the Netherlands and Belgium, which are not affected.

People over 70 will be told to self-isolate in the UK

Elderly people in the UK will be told to self-isolate "within the coming weeks" the UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock told British channel Sky News on Sunday.

Hancock was speaking as he addressed growing concerns over the coronavirus outbreak in the UK.

He said the government had set out the future restrictions, which include asking the vulnerable and those over 70 to self-isolate for up to four months, in its action plan to tackle the virus.

Hancock also called on manufacturers to help build more ventilators which he said were "critical" in the battle to help those who are ill.

For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, COVID-19 can cause severe illness, including pneumonia.