China and South Korea mark major milestones in taming coronavirus

SK Wyverns baseball team fans wearing face masks watch the live baseball game outside the stadium during a baseball game between Hanwha Eagl Credit: AP Photo/Lee Jin-man

Countries including China and South Korea have marked major milestones in taming Covid-19, even as the UK became the epicentre of Covid-19 in Europe and infections rose sharply again in Russia.

South Korea reported only three new cases of the virus, its lowest total since February 18, and schools will be reopened in phased steps, starting with high school seniors on May 13, but the highlight on Tuesday was the resumption of the baseball season.

Cheerleaders danced beneath rows of empty seats and umpires wore protective masks as one of the world’s first major professional sports returned to action in games broadcast to starved sports fans around the world. The Korea Baseball Organisation employed other protective measures, including fever screenings for players and coaches before they entered the stadiums.

The country’s professional football leagues will kick off on Friday, also without spectators.

In China, it has been three weeks since any new deaths have been reported in the country where the pandemic began late last year. Just one new infection was confirmed, and fewer than 400 patients are still being treated for Covid-19, health officials said.

Other places in the Asia-Pacific region have also suppressed outbreaks, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Thailand, Australia and New Zealand, which has had no new cases for two days. But experts say India, a nation of 1.3 billion people, has yet to see the peak of its outbreak.

Cyclists in the Chinese tourist spot of Nanluonguxiang Credit: Andy Wong/AP

Britain now has Europe’s highest official coronavirus death toll after the latest round of daily figures on Tuesday showed it overtaking Italy.

In Russia, the number of infections rose sharply again, with Moscow reporting more than 10,000 new cases for three days in a row.

At the same time, many European countries that have relaxed strict lockdowns after new infections tapered off were watching their virus numbers warily.

“We know with great certainty that there will be a second wave — the majority of scientists is sure of that. And many also assume that there will be a third wave,” said Lothar Wieler, the head of Germany’s national disease control centre.

In the US, moves to reopen some states came even as daily new infections continue to exceed 20,000 and daily deaths were over 1,000, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

On Tuesday, New York state reported more than 1,700 previously undisclosed deaths at nursing homes and adult care facilities.

President Donald Trump headed for Arizona to visit a Honeywell factory that makes respirator masks, in what could be a return to more regular travel for the president.

“The people of our country should think of themselves as warriors. Our country has to open,” Mr Trump said before boarding Air Force One.

At least 4,813 people have died from Covid-19 in state nursing homes since March 1, according to a tally released by governor Andrew Cuomo’s administration that, for the first time, includes people believed to have been killed by coronavirus before their diagnoses could be confirmed by a lab test.

Governments around the world have reported 3.5 million infections and more than 251,000 deaths, including nearly 69,000 in the US.

Deliberately concealed outbreaks, low testing rates and the severe strain the disease has placed on health care systems mean the true scale of the pandemic is undoubtedly much greater.