Tuesday 24 March 2020 5:46 pm

Coronavirus: US could become epicentre and India announces lockdown

The US could become the world epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said today as India announced a nationwide lockdown.

A WHO spokesperson said there had been a “very large acceleration” in coronavirus infections in the US which had the potential of becoming the new epicentre.

Over the past 24 hours, 85 per cent of new cases were from Europe and the US, they told reporters. Of those, 40 per cent were from the US.

Read more: UK coronavirus death toll: Biggest daily increase to 422

Asked whether the US could become the new epicentre, the spokesperson said: “We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the US. So it does have that potential. We cannot say that is the case yet but it does have that potential.”

US President Donald Trump looks to be swinging back towards an economy-first approach to tackling the virus.

Today he tweeted: “Our people want to return to work. They will practice Social Distancing and all else, and Seniors will be watched over protectively & lovingly. We can do two things together. THE CURE CANNOT BE WORSE (by far) THAN THE PROBLEM!.”

Separately, India today announced a total lockdown for its 1.3bn people, starting from midnight local time (6.30pm GMT).

Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered the 21-day lockdown of the world’s second most populous country today, following warnings from health researchers that more than a million people in India could be infected with the coronavirus by mid-May.

“The only way to save ourselves from coronavirus is if we don’t leave our homes, whatever happens, we stay at home,” Modi said.

Read more: London coronavirus lockdown: Which Tubes and buses are still operating?

India has found 482 cases of the coronavirus and nine people have died from the covid-19 disease it causes but alarm is growing across the region about prospects for its spread into impoverished communities and the ability of resource-starved public health sectors to cope.

“India is today at such a stage, where our actions today will determine our ability to reduce the impact of this disaster,” Modi said, citing health officials and experts including the WHO for his dire warnings.