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A group of 13 countries called Saturday for global cooperation to reduce the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, as infections and fatalities continued to climb worldwide.
The countries said in a joint statement that "it is vital that we work together to save lives and livelihoods." They vowed to "work with all countries to coordinate on public health, travel, trade, [and] economic and financial measures in order to minimize disruptions and recover stronger."
Members of the group were Britain, Indonesia, Germany, Singapore, Turkey, Canada, Italy, Brazil, France, Mexico, South Korea, Morocco and Peru.
Early signs that restrictions to contain the outbreak in Europe are working has prompted authorities in Spain and France to begin dismantling some field hospitals.
Most governments and public health officials, however, continue to caution against lifting restrictions, despite the economic toll they are inflicting on world economies.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Saturday that the border his country shares with the U.S. would be closed to nonessential travel for another month as a border agreement between the nations was set to expire next week.
In the hard-hit U.S., where the debate about relaxing the restrictions has taken on partisan tones before the November presidential election, Republican President Donald Trump is pushing to lift restrictions on businesses and workers, despite the country's status as the world leader in confirmed cases and fatalities.
Trump called on supporters Friday who participated in street demonstrations to "liberate" three states led by Democratic governors. Demonstrations organized by conservative groups to more quickly lift work and commerce restrictions took place this week in several U.S. states, including California, Virginia, Michigan, Kentucky and North Carolina.
More to come
Another demonstration was planned for Saturday on the steps of the Capitol in Austin, Texas, a public show of resistance to state lockdown orders aimed at stemming the spread of the coronavirus. Other demonstrations are planned for next week.
The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported there were now more than 2.3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world, with more than 158,000 deaths, as of Saturday afternoon.
There were more than 718,000 cases and more than 37,700 fatalities in the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins statistics.
The nearly six-week lockdown in Italy, second in fatalities behind the U.S., appeared to be working. The country's Civil Protection Agency reported 482 new deaths Saturday, the lowest daily increase since April 12. Italy has also experienced a significant drop in coronavirus patients who are treated in intensive care units.
The U.N. Economic Commission said the pandemic could claim 300,000 lives in Africa this year. But the World Health Organization estimated there were fewer than 2,000 ventilators available for the hundreds of millions of people in 41 African countries, fueling concerns that chronic shortages of ventilators and other essential supplies could be catastrophic.
Doubt about numbers
While the number of cases in Africa appeared low, the director-general of the WHO said Friday that the numbers were most likely deceiving.
"In the past week, there has been a 51% increase in the number of reported cases in my own continent, Africa, and a 60% increase in the number of reported deaths," Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. "With the current challenge of obtaining testing kits, it's likely that the real numbers are higher than reported."
Washington, however, rejected the notion Friday that the United States lacked adequate testing capability and moved ahead with plans to gradually restart the U.S. economy, while trying to keep the safety and health of its citizens a top priority.
Vice President Mike Pence said he believed the U.S. had the capacity "to do a sufficient amount of testing" for states to begin lifting restrictions "in the time and manner that they deem appropriate."
Some medical experts were skeptical about Washington's drive to relax restrictions before widespread testing, predicting that doing so would most likely result in a round of new infections.
Harvard University researchers warned that the U.S. could not reopen the economy without endangering more lives unless it tripled the number of tests it's conducting. The researchers estimated the number of tests performed each day until mid-May should be between 500,000 and 700,000, far greater than the current average daily of 146,000.
Trump tweeted Saturday that he had spoken with Federal Emergency Management Agency and military officials about the pandemic, without offering specifics. The White House said he would have a televised briefing later in the day.
To help ease concern among millions of homebound people throughout the world, a group of celebrities and entertainers was to participate in a worldwide television broadcast Saturday to honor health care workers.
The Rolling Stones announced they would perform in a statement released Friday by Global Citizen, a nonprofit organization that planned the event with the WHO.
The two-hour event, "One World: Together at Home," will offer a variety of entertainment, including music from the likes of Celine Dion and John Legend, comedy and stories from health care and other workers.
The event will be broadcast by numerous North American international television networks.