By MORGAN WINSOR, ABC News
(NEW YORK) — A pandemic of the novel coronavirus has now killed more than 323,000 people worldwide.
Over 4.9 million people across the globe have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the new respiratory virus, according to data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University. The actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and suspicions that some governments are hiding the scope of their nations’ outbreaks.
Since the first cases were detected in China in December, the United States has become the worst-affected country, with more than 1.5 million diagnosed cases and at least 91,938 deaths.
Here’s how the news is developing Wednesday. All times Eastern:
7:43 a.m.: Dutch officials say mink may have infected human with COVID-19
Dutch investigators believe a human may have contracted the novel coronavirus from a mink at a farm in the Netherlands.
New research findings in the ongoing investigation into the country’s mink farms also show that the animals can have COVID-19 without showing any symptoms, according to a press release from the Dutch government.
Investigators also believe cats may have a role in the spread of the virus on the mink farms. Coronavirus antibodies were detected in three out of 11 cats at one of the mink farms under investigation. Pending further research, the Dutch government is advising mink farm owners to ensure that cats cannot enter or exit the site.
The government is now instituting mandatory antibody testing of minks at all farms in the Netherlands.
“These new findings have a major impact on mink farm owners and staff and their families, as well as on local communities,” Dutch Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten said in a statement late Tuesday night. “I’m in close contact with all those involved.”
7:08 a.m.: Russia surpasses 300,000 total cases of COVID-19
Russia on Wednesday reported 8,764 new cases of COVID-19 over the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 308,705, according to the country’s coronavirus response headquarters.
There were also a record 135 coronavirus-linked fatalities registered over the same period — the country’s highest single-day increase so far — which places the nationwide death toll at 2,972. The previous record was 119 deaths reported on May 16.
For the first time on Wednesday, Russia’s coronavirus response headquarters reported more patients recovering from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours — 9,262 — than the number of people testing positive.
Russia has one of the world’s highest nationwide tallies of diagnosed cases in the coronavirus pandemic, second only to the United States, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.
Russia’s latest daily caseload is down from a peak of 11,656 new infections reported on May 11. Last Thursday marked the end of a 12-day streak during which the country registered over 10,000 new cases per day.
6:24 a.m.: UN chief warns virus pandemic threatens Africa’s progress
The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned Wednesday that the coronavirus pandemic threatens Africa’s progress, although the vast continent seems to be relatively spared from the scourge of the virus so far.
There have been less than 3,000 deaths from COVID-19 out of some 88,000 cases of the disease reported throughout Africa. That could be, in part, due to the fact that many countries across the continent took swift action in imposing preventative measures to stem the spread of the virus.
“As of now, reported cases are lower than feared,” Guterres said in a video message Wednesday, while warning that “much hangs in the balance” and the pandemic “will aggravate long-standing inequalities and heighten hunger, malnutrition and vulnerability to disease.”
The U.N. chief called for “international action to strengthen Africa’s health systems, maintain food supplies, avoid a financial crisis, support education, protect jobs, keep households and businesses afloat, and cushion the continent against lost income and export earnings.” He said the continent needs more than $200 billion and “an across-the-board debt standstill for African countries” to help address the devastating economic and social fallout of the crisis.
“Already, demand for Africa’s commodities, tourism and remittances are declining,” Guterres said, adding that “the opening of the trade zone has been pushed back.”
5:41 a.m.: University of Cambridge to keep all lectures online until summer 2021
The prestigious University of Cambridge plans to keep all lectures online over the course of the next academic year due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“The University is constantly adapting to changing advice as it emerges during this pandemic,” a spokesperson told ABC News in a statement Wednesday. “Given that it is likely that social distancing will continue to be required, the University has decided there will be no face-to-face lectures during the next academic year.”
It’s the first globally-known university to announce such plans beyond the upcoming fall term.
“Lectures will continue to be made available online and it may be possible to host smaller teaching groups in person, as long as this conforms to social distancing requirements,” the spokesperson added. “This decision has been taken now to facilitate planning, but as ever, will be reviewed should there be changes to official advice on coronavirus.”
The University of Cambridge, one of the oldest universities in the world, closed its campuses in the United Kingdom in March due to the pandemic. All teaching has been moved online and exams are conducted virtually.
4:19 a.m.: All 50 US states have now eased coronavirus restrictions
All 50 U.S. states have now taken steps to ease restrictions put in place to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Connecticut was among the last to begin reopening its society and economy, with residents allowed to go to retail shops and dine outdoors at restaurants starting Wednesday. Hair salons and barbershops, however, won’t be allowed to reopen until June 1, while guidance on gyms, nail salons, massage therapy businesses and tattoo parlors will come at a later date.
Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont called it a “slow and methodical reopening.”
“There is a balance and there’s nothing that is risk-free,” Lamont said at a virtual press conference Tuesday. “I think we can proceed on a very thoughtful basis with those businesses that are least likely to be dangerous and most likely to have a real economic value for the state. And I’m looking forward, I think this is a good day for the state and I hope everybody maintains their discipline because that’s going to make it successful.”
The process hasn’t been without controversy. Earlier this month, protesters gathered outside the Connecticut state capital and the governor’s mansion in Hartford demanding that businesses be allowed to resume activities, as a growing number of other states across the country began reopening.
Connecticut, home to some 3.5 million people, has so far tested more than 185,000 people for COVID-19 and at least 38,430 have returned positive results.
At least 3,472 people in the state have died from the disease, while another 914 remained hospitalized Tuesday.
“These are trend lines that I think give us some confidence,” Lamont said. “The timing is right, and we hit the key metrics that we thought we would.”
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