Patients infected with the novel coronavirus are seen at a makeshift hospital converted from an exhibition center in Wuhan, central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 5, 2020. The makeshift hospital converted from an exhibition center in China's epidemic-hit Wuhan city began accepting patients Wednesday. The hospital can provide about 1,600 beds to infected patients. (Xinhua/Xiong Qi)

The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday that the COVID-19 outbreak still constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), the WHO’s highest level of alarm.

The PHEIC was declared on Jan. 30 over the novel coronavirus outbreak, when there were only 82 COVID-19 cases outside China. As of 2 a.m. (0000 GMT) on Friday, the WHO said it has received reports of 3,181,642 confirmed cases, including 224,301 deaths globally.

“HATS OFF TO YOU”
The WHO director-general has the responsibility to determine a PHEIC and the decision should be reviewed every three months, under the International Health Regulations.

“As we have done clearly from the beginning, we will continue to call on countries to implement a comprehensive package of measures to find, isolate, test and treat every case, and trace every contact,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a virtual press conference from here.

Following over three months of an arduous fight, Wuhan, the central Chinese city once hardest hit by the coronavirus outbreak, cleared all COVID-19 cases in hospitals on April 26. “That’s very, very welcome news,” Maria van Kerkhove, technical lead for the WHO’s Health Emergencies Program, said at the conference. “So congratulations on this achievement.”

She appreciated the “tireless efforts” of the people in Wuhan. “We take our hats off to you, and we thank you for your commitment and your service, and for sharing with us in the world what you’ve been able to do,” she said. The WHO also reiterated that the coronavirus is “natural in origin” at Friday’s conference.

SUFFERING REMAINS
The COVID-19 pandemic continues taking tolls on lives and economies. The Indian Health Ministry said Saturday that 1,971 additional positive cases and 66 new deaths had been reported since Friday evening, and Singapore reported 932 new COVID-19 cases on Friday, bringing the total confirmed cases in the country to 17,101.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the United States has topped 1.1 million as of 7:40 p.m. EDT (2340 GMT) Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University’s tally, and the death toll from the disease hit 64,789 nationwide. Data shows economic activity in the manufacturing sectors in both the United States and the United Kingdom plunged to record lows.

The Institute for Supply Management reported on Friday that the U.S. Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell by 7.6 percentage points to 41.5 percent in April, the lowest since April 2009, amid mounting COVID-19 fallout and weak global energy markets. The PMI for Britain’s manufacturing sector dropped to 32.6 in April, according to data published by IHS MARKIT/CIPS, as output, new orders and employment all contracted at the fastest rates in nearly 30 years. Any reading below 50 percent indicates the manufacturing sector is generally contracting.

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