Britain’s Boris Johnson out of hospital as deaths ease worldwide

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanks the hospital staff in a video message on Easter Sunday in 10 Downing Street in London after being released from the hospital. Photo courtesy EPA/Pippa Fowles/10 Downing street

April 13 (UPI) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, one of the most high-profile people who tested positive for the coronavirus, was released from the hospital Sunday as the death toll was easing worldwide from the global pandemic, including Europe.

More than 114,000 people have died from the outbreak and there have been more than 1.85 million cases worldwide, according to tracking by worldometers.info. But the pandemic slowed to a less than 5 percent increase in fatalities through Sunday. Hard-hit Europe has dropped to a 4.3 percent increase, including Italy and Spain each reporting around a 2 percent gain.

The United States surpassed Italy with the most deaths, passing 20,000 Saturday and hitting more than 22,000 Sunday for a 6.8 percent gain with 1,528 addition deaths, which is several hundred less than Saturday.

But Dr. David Nabarro, the World Health Organization’s special envoy on COVID-19, said on NBC’s Meet the Press he believes “it is going to be a virus that stalks the human race for quite a long time to come,” until a vaccine is developed. He predicts small outbreaks “sporadically,” and every community needs a “defense shield” to isolate cases from becoming a large outbreak.

On March 27, Britain’s prime minister announced he tested positive for COVID-19 and was experiencing “mild symptoms” while in self isolation in Downing Street. But 10 days later on Tuesday, he was taken to St. Thomas’ Hospital in London and moved to intensive care the next day. He spent three nights in intensive care with “standard oxygen” and was not put on a respirator.

“I have today left hospital after a week in which the NHS has saved my life, no question,” Johnson said in a video released online praising medical personnel with the National Health Service. “It’s hard to find the words to express my debt.”

The 55-year-old prime minister will continue his recovery at Chequers, a Downing Street spokesperson said, and will not be returning to work immediately.

“I have seen the personal courage not just of the doctors and nurses but of everyone, the cleaners, the cooks, the health care workers of every description — physios, radiographers, pharmacists — who have kept coming to work, kept putting themselves in harm’s way, kept risking this deadly virus,” Johnson said.

In Britain, 10,612 have died from the coronavirus, including an additional 737 fatalities announced Sunday. The kingdom ranks fifth in the world in deaths after a high of 980 deaths announced Friday. The increase was 7.4 percent Sunday. The Department of Health and Social Care reported that 29.8 percent of the 352,974 tested have come back positive.

“The numbers in the U.K. have continued to go up. I do hope that we’re coming close to the number of new infections reducing, and in a week or two the number of people needing hospital reducing,” Jeremy Farrar, director of the Wellcome Trust and a U.K. government adviser, told BBC’s Andrew Marr on Sunday.

A second or third wave of coronavirus was “probably inevitable,” Farrar said.

Farrar noted that Germany has been able to buck the trend of skyrocketing deaths.

Germany, a nation of 83 million people, reported just 36 Sunday for a total of 2,907 — 1.3 percent, placing ninth in the world.

Farrar praised the “remarkable” testing efforts early on and isolating those who had contracted the virus.

At the other extreme, Italy has been on virtual lockdown for weeks but ranks second in the world with deaths. On Sunday, the nation reported 431 deaths for a total of 19,899 for a 2.2 percent increase. The death toll reached a high of 919 on March 27 but by Saturday it had dropped to 619.

In an Easter message, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said, “Today will not be like the other times, and tomorrow won’t be either, when we hold on to what we care about. Together we will do it.”

Conte noted the solemness of the holiday.

“To those who suffer today, to those who have an empty chair in front of them, to those who struggle in the hospital wards to remove tears and pain from their community,” he said. “We miss the smiles of relatives, the hugs of friends, the beautiful traditions of our country, the handshakes in the church, in the square, at the bar. The sacrifices that each of us makes on this important Sunday are a gesture of authentic commitment to what really matters and that we will be able to recover soon.”

Spain, which ranks third with 16,972 deaths, has also seen a reduction in deaths.

On Sunday, the nation reported 366 fatalities for a total of 16,972 — only a 2.2 percent increase. At its peak on April 2, 961 deaths were reported.

Because of the improvement, Spain has begun loosening some restrictions.

People may return to work after the Easter holidays, including construction and manufacturing, but non-essential retail outlets, including bars and places of entertainment, must remain closed. Restaurants can only provide takeout.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has cautioned the curbing of the lockdown will be “progressive.”

The state of emergency has been extended to April 26.

“The climb has been difficult, the descent will also be,” Sanchez told Parliament last week.

France, which ranks fourth with 14,393 fatalities through Saturday, has had a zig-zag of daily death reports. It had ranged from 1,417 on Tuesday, to 541 on Wednesday, to 987 Thursday, to 987 Friday, to 635 Saturday to 561 Sunday.

“We are seeing the start of a very high plateau,” the French Health Ministry said in a statement.

France, like other countries, remains on a nationwide lockdown. Foreigners entering French territory, a group of 10 international vacationers who flew from London to the south of France in a private jet, were turned away by French police after they landed Saturday.

One trouble spot is in Belgium, which reported 254 deaths Sunday for a total of 4,474 and a 7.6 percent increase. The high was 496 Friday followed by 327 Saturday. Just seven days ago, the death toll there was 1,447.

Mainland China, where the virus began, has been surpassed by many nations. With no deaths reported Sunday, the death toll stands at 3,339, in eighth place among the world’s most populous nation of 1.4 billion people. Most cases recently have been imported — meaning they picked up the virus in another nation.

South Korea, which was among the first nations with widespread testing, reported three more deaths for a total of 214. The cases increased 32 to 10,512.

On Saturday, Japan announced the most deaths in one day — nine — for a total of 108. Twice before, eight fatalities were announced. Japan also announced 743 more cases for a total of 6,748.

The nation has been testing its anti-viral drug Avigan for potential use as a treatment for the coronavirus. The drug’s manufacturer, Fujifilm Corporation, has announced the company also will begin its first U.S. clinical trials in Massachusetts.

In India, the second most populous nation with 1.35 billion people, on Sunday reported 39 additional deaths for a total of 288. The lockdown is scheduled to end Tuesday but several states have pushed for an extension of the 21-day lockdown.

In all, more than 11,000 have died in Asia.

Other continents have been in good shape.

South America’s death toll went past 2,500 through Sunday, with Brazil dominating with 1,223 deaths for 11th place in the world, including 83 more.

Africa has reported 791 deaths, led by 293 fatalities in Algeria.

In Oceania, the death count stands at 63 — 59 in Australia and four in New Zealand.

The United States has most of the deaths in North America, followed by Canada with 717 and Mexico with 273.

No cases have been reported in Antarctica. During the summer, the population peaks at 5,000.

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