France said Wednesday it would extend a lockdown aimed at slowing the spread of the coronavirus as the death toll soared across Europe and the US -- though Washington said it saw "glimmers of hope" on the horizon.
Governments are grappling with how to balance public safety against the devastating economic impact of stay-at-home orders that have erased millions of jobs in a matter of weeks.More than 80,000 people worldwide have died in the virus crisis, which has sent the global economy spiralling and forced billions of people to remain at home as much as possible.
As the economic downturn starts to bite, health experts stressed that any premature loosening of restrictions could accelerate the spread of a contagion that has already infiltrated nearly every country.
In France, one of the hardest-hit nations in Europe with more than 10,000 deaths, President Emmanuel Macron will address the nation next week to explain the path forward.
The confinement order issued on 17 March "will be extended" beyond the current deadline of 15 April, an official close to Macron told AFP.
Italy and Spain are still recording hundreds of deaths a day, and the situation is also deteriorating in Britain, which saw a record 938 fatalities Wednesday as prime minister Boris Johnson spent a third day in intensive care.
The 55-year-old leader's condition is "improving" and he is in "good spirits", officials assured the public.In New York, the epicentre of the US outbreak, the state's governor noted the new single-day high for virus deaths at 779, but offered an optimistic view for the weeks to come.
"We are flattening the curve," Andrew Cuomo told reporters, as he cited a decreasing hospitalisation rate due to stay-at-home orders.
That optimism was shared by US president Donald Trump and vice president Mike Pence, who both said the data seemed to indicate a turn for the better.
"We are hopefully heading towards a final stretch, the light at the end of the tunnel," Trump told reporters.
Pence chimed in: "We're beginning to see glimmers of hope."
In the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the novel coronavirus first emerged in December, there was cause for celebration as a ban on outbound travel was lifted.
Malta meanwhile joined the ranks of those in mourning, recording its first death.