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More than 900,000 coronavirus cases confirmed worldwide

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Medical personnel prepare a Covid-19 infected patient at the universitary hospital (CHU) of Tours, France, March 31, 2020 (Photo by GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP)
Medical personnel prepare a Covid-19 infected patient at the universitary hospital (CHU) of Tours, France, March 31, 2020 (Photo by GUILLAUME SOUVANT / AFP)   -   Copyright  GUILLAUME SOUVANT/AFP or licensors
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There will be one million confirmed coronavirus cases and the global death toll will pass 50,000 in the next few days, the World Health Organization (WHO) chief said on Wednesday, as the number of confirmed cases worldwide shot above 900,000.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he is “deeply concerned” about the acceleration and global spread of cases. The death toll worldwide has surpassed 45,000.

The comments came as Spain's death toll topped 9,000 on Wednesday. Another 864 people died in the country in the latest 24 hour period, another record for the world's worst affected nation after Italy.

The total number of infections in the country rose above 100,000, an increase of over 7,700 from the previous day.

But there was more optimistic news from Italy, with the latest figures released on Wednesday suggesting the spread of the virus may be slowing. The death toll rose by 727, which is 100 fewer than the day before. More than 13,000 have now died in Italy from COVID-19.

More patients are also recovering. Figures show 22,647 people in Spain have been cured, around 20% of the overall number of cases.

This year's COP26 UN Climate change conference, which was due to take place in Glasgow in November, has been postponed due to COVID-19. A new date will be announced in due course.

The UK announced the move after revealing 563 more deaths on Wednesday, bringing the death toll in the country to 2,352. It also revealed that 152,979 people had been tested for coronavirus.

The British government said it would increase the number of coronavirus tests amid widespread criticism that it was not doing enough.

France reported 509 more deaths on Wednesday, taking the total figure to over 4,000. However this does not take account of deaths outside hospital including those in care homes. Figures are expected to be revised from Thursday.

The latest statistics follow stark warnings from both the head of the United Nations and the American president.

The UN's Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the world faced a global crisis on a scale not seen since the organisation's creation after the Second World War.

Donald Trump meanwhile abandoned predictions of an early resolution to the crisis, urging Americans to heed official guidelines as "a matter of life and death".

What's the other coronavirus news from around Europe?

  • Germany will keep its anti-virus restrictions until at least 19 April, Chancellor Angela Merkel announced. She said the number of infections is rising sharply.
  • The Wimbledon tennis tournament in the UK has been cancelled for the first time since World War Two due to the virus outbreak.

  • This year's Edinburgh festivals have become the latest big events to be cancelled because of the pandemic. Both international festival and fringe festival organisers confirmed the news.

  • Austria is making it compulsory to wear masks in supermarkets from next week. The measure is not being brought in immediately due to a shortage.

  • The Netherlands has extended its lockdown period until April 28. The country has now reported over 1,000 deaths.

  • Poland is bringing in new measures restricting movement, including closing non-essential businesses. Children under-18 can only go outside accompanied by an adult.

  • Turkey has sent a planeload of medical supplies to Italy and Spain, Turkish media report.

  • Belgium reported on Tuesday the death of a 12-year-old girl from the virus, while the UK said a 13-year-old boy from London had also died.

  • EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen warned that emergency measures must not compromise Europe's "fundamental principles and values".

  • It came the day after Hungary's parliament approved sweeping new powers for Viktor Orban's government. France and Belgium have also boosted executive powers.

  • In France 359,000 fines have been imposed and 5.8 million security checks carried out during the first fortnight of the lockdown, the French interior minister says.

'Worst crisis' since World War Two, UN warns

The head of the United Nations warned late on Tuesday that the global coronavirus is the worst crisis the world has faced since World War II.

Antonio Guterres spoke as the UN launched a report on the social and economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The new coronavirus disease is attacking societies at their core, claiming lives and people’s livelihoods,” the UN Secretary General said. “COVID-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations.”

“We are facing a global health crisis unlike any in the 75-year history of the United Nations — one that is killing people, spreading human suffering, and upending people’s lives,” the report said.

'Help the poorest and most vulnerable'

Commenting on the UN report, Antonio Guterres called for "coordinated, decisive, inclusive and innovative" action from the world's richer nations to help "the poorest and most vulnerable people and countries".

Otherwise the world would “face the nightmare of the disease spreading like wildfire in the global South with millions of deaths and the prospect of the disease re-emerging where it was previously suppressed”, he said.

The UN chief called for countries to implement policies that support health and unemployment insurance, social protection, while also boosting businesses to prevent bankruptcies and job losses.

Trump's about-turn

Meanwhile US President Donald Trump has warned Americans to brace for a "hell of a bad two weeks" ahead, as the White House projected there could be between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths in the country from the pandemic. However, it said such figures were not inevitable.

Trump said following official guidelines was a "matter of life and death" for Americans and predicted the country would soon see a "light at the end of the tunnel".

So far the pandemic has killed more than 3,500 Americans and infected 170,000 more.

The US president's comments came after he announced on Sunday an extension to April 30 of the social distancing guidelines. Americans are advised to stop large gatherings and work from home.

It was an abrupt reversal for Donald Trump, who said earlier he wanted the country back to normal by Easter on April 12, and wanted to see Americans "pack the pews" for Easter Sunday church services.

He also rejected those who compared the new coronavirus to the flu -- despite having repeatedly done so himself.

The president played down concerns from New York's Andrew Cuomo and other governors that state hospitals don't have enough ventilators. Trump said the federal government had a stockpile of 10,000 ventilators and planned to distribute them as needed.