MADRID, Spain, March 29 ------ More than three billion people are living under lockdown measures as soaring death tolls in Europe and the US on Wednesday underlined a United Nations warning that the coronavirus pandemic threatens all of humanity. As the global death toll soared past 20,800, Spain joined Italy in seeing its number of fatalities overtake China, where the virus first emerged just three months ago.
"COVID-19 is threatening the whole of humanity — and the whole of humanity must fight back," UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said, launching an appeal for $2 billion to help the world's poor. "Global action and solidarity are crucial. Individual country responses are not going to be enough." Markets rebounded after Washington vowed to spend $2 trillion to fend off a US economic collapse, while governments elsewhere were taking ever more dramatic steps to contain the disease.
India's stay-at-home order for its 1.3 billion people is now the biggest, taking the total number of people facing restrictions on their daily lives to more than three billion. Russia, which announced the death of two patients who tested positive for coronavirus on Wednesday, is expected to follow suit. President Vladimir Putin declared next week a public holiday and postponed a public vote on controversial constitutional reforms, urging people to follow instructions given by authorities.
In Britain, heir to the throne Prince Charles became the latest high-profile figure to become infected, though he has suffered only mild symptoms. The G20 major economies will hold an emergency videoconference on Thursday to discuss a global response to the crisis, as will the 27 leaders of the European Union, the outbreak's new epicenter. China has begun to relax its own draconian restrictions on free movement in the province of Hubei -- the original epicenter of the outbreak -- after the country reported no new cases.
Crowds jammed trains and buses in the province as people took their first opportunity to travel. But Spain saw the number of deaths surge to 3,434 after 738 people died in the past 24 hours and the government announced a 432-million-euro ($467 million) deal to buy medical supplies from Beijing.