Global coronavirus deaths topped 800,000 people on Saturday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, which came less than 24 hours after the World Health Organization said it hoped the pandemic would last less than two years .
Cases took an upward turn in eastern European countries on Saturday, with Ukraine registering 2,328 new cases and 37 deaths between Friday and Saturday, figures from the National Security and Defense Council showed.
This prompted President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to urge people on Saturday to adhere to health advice, wear masks and maintain social distancing, with data showing daily infections reached an all time high.
“Please help the doctors, be careful,” Zelenskiy said in a TV interview. “We really didn’t have the first wave (of infections) when it happened in Europe. Now it is happening. “
The head of Israel’s coronavirus task force also urged Ukraine on Saturday to ban an annual pilgrimage in which tens of thousands of Hasidic Jews descend to the central Ukrainian city of Uman for the Jewish New Year in September.
Fearing it could become a hotspot for viruses, the two governments have already issued a joint statement asking pilgrims to cancel their trips, though huge crowds are still expected to arrive.
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Nearby, in the Czech Republic, authorities on Friday recorded 506 new cases of coronavirus, the highest number of new infections in one day since the start of the epidemic.
The Czech government was among the first in Europe to introduce social restrictions, but started lifting the restrictions in May.
News of the peaks came less than 24 hours after WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a briefing in the Swiss city of Geneva that the organization hoped to “end this pandemic (in ) less than two years ”.
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“We have a disadvantage of globalization, proximity, connectivity but an advantage of better technology,” he said, calling for global solidarity in the search for a vaccine. Adding that the Spanish flu of 1918 also took about two years to end.
Elsewhere, India reported a record daily jump in infections on Saturday, bringing the total to nearly 3 million and putting pressure on authorities.
South Korea said on Saturday it would roll out stricter social distancing measures to curb the spread of the virus, as it combats a new epidemic spreading from the capital, Seoul.
Meanwhile, there was a silver lining in Spain, which suffered badly at the peak of the outbreak in Europe, as more than half of the country’s businesses reopened, according to government data released on Saturday.
However, France has been forced to delay unveiling details of its 100 billion euros ($ 118 billion) stimulus package to reinvigorate the economy until September, as it focuses on preparing for opening schools for the new term, the government said.
Reuters contributed to this report.