Spain has recorded another 864 deaths related to coronavirus, the highest in one day, as the total number of deaths across Europe has gone beyond 30,000.
More than 9,000 people have died in Spain, which is second only to Italy in fatalities caused by the virus.
Confirmed cases in the country have passed 100,000, but numbers show the infection rate continues to fall.
UN Secretary General António Guterres said the pandemic was the world’s biggest challenge since World War Two.
The warning comes amid dire predictions about the possible economic impact of measures imposed to fight the virus. A UN report estimates that up to 25 million jobs could be lost around the world as the result of the outbreak.
The number of confirmed cases around the world is now over 870,000, with more than 43,000 deaths, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Wednesday’s number of deaths in Spain was marginally higher than the 849 announced the day before, and the country has now seen more than 800 deaths for five days in a row. But health officials believe the latest 12% increase in daily infections is further evidence that the rate has stabilised.
Spain has been in lockdown for over two weeks, with further restrictions on movement introduced two days ago. But health services in the hardest-hit areas, including Madrid and Catalonia, are still struggling, with shortages of medical equipment a particular problem.
The number of fatalities in the US has now topped 4,000, and Iran says Covid-19 – the disease caused by coronavirus – has claimed 3,000 lives. Belgium said more than half its intensive care beds were occupied as it reported a rise of 123 deaths, bringing the country’s death toll to 828.
Meanwhile the Nato military alliance said it remained in “a state of operational readiness” to defend the borders of its members despite the pandemic, although it had cancelled a number of exercises to prevent the spread of infection.
What did Mr Guterres say?
Speaking at the UN headquarters in New York at the launch of a report on the potential socioeconomic impact of the outbreak, Mr Guterres said: “The new coronavirus disease is attacking societies at their core, claiming lives and people’s livelihoods”.
He said it could bring a recession “that probably has no parallel in the recent past”.
Countries around the world have imposed a series of measures, including restricting people’s movements and closing most businesses, to curb the spread of the virus. The UN report projects an up to 40% “downward pressure” on global foreign direct investment flows.
“Covid-19 is the greatest test that we have faced together since the formation of the United Nations,” he said, calling for “an immediate co-ordinated health response to suppress transmission and end the pandemic”.
Mr Guterres urged industrialised nations to help those less developed, or potentially “face the nightmare of the disease spreading like wildfire”.
On Tuesday, the World Bank warned that “significant economic pain” seemed “unavoidable in all countries”, and households that depend on industries particularly vulnerable to the impact of the virus were at “higher risk”.
Manufacturing output in the UK in March hit its lowest point since 2012, however the crisis has not yet filtered through to Italian job levels with employment in February slightly down at 9.7%.
African finance ministers have appealed for $100bn (£80bn) in emergency financing, with debt relief from the International Monetary Fund, World Bank and European Union.
What are the latest developments around the world?
In the US, 865 have died in the past 24 hours and in all more than 189,000 people have been infected, Johns Hopkins reports.
President Donald Trump warned of “a very, very painful two weeks”, as modelling by the White House’s coronavirus task force estimated that between 100,000 and 240,000 people could die in the coming months.
Infectious diseases adviser Anthony Fauci said that “as sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it”, while stressing that authorities were doing their utmost to prevent it.
About three out of four people in the US are now, or about to be, under some form of lockdown, as more states tighten measures to fight the coronavirus.
In other developments:
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