Spain extended its state of emergency for two more weeks to allow the government to extend stringent lockdown measures in a desperate attempt to contain the coronavirus. Spain reported 738 new deaths in one day on Wednesday while Italy announced 683. The two countries have the highest fatality rate in the global pandemic.
Spain has now surpassed China, where the pandemic began, in the overall number of COVID-19 deaths.
The Moody's credit rating agency said it is forecasting an economic recession for all G20 countries in 2020, while United Nations director-general Antonio Guterres said coronavirus threatens the whole humanity.
France announced a total of 25,233 confirmed COVID-19 cases on Wednesday as its death toll reached 1,331, with 231 new deaths in one day. The country has introduced legislation to implement a war economy amid the pandemic and as the country has been under lockdown for a week.
The UK on Wednesday confirmed the death of the deputy to the British ambassador to Hungary, Steven Dick, 37, of COVID-19. British PM Boris Johnson announced on Wednesday that over 400,000 people answered a call to volunteer for the NHS health service in one day.
The French government published 25 decrees on Wednesday to implement new measures under the country's state of health emergency, declared last week.
The measures include a €1 billion fund for small businesses and self-employed people, as well as financial aid for the travel sector, and systems put in place to pay salaries to the workers whose jobs have been stopped under the lockdown.
The French government has also published measures to temporarily adapt the French labor law to create a real war economy. Businesses will be temporarily allowed to make employees work longer hours, or work nights or Sundays as needed.
We will face a long effort, together, the French PM Edouard Philippe told the parliament.
Spain is now second only to Italy in worldwide deaths from COVID-19, after it surpassed China, where the outbreak began.
On Wednesday morning Spain had registered 3,434 dead, taking over the death toll in China which stands at 3,285. Italy, the world's worst affected country, has an official death toll of 6,820.
Hotels in Spain have been converted into makeshift hospitals and an ice rink in the capital Madrid is being used as a morgue, as the infections and deaths continue to shoot up. On Wednesday, as well as the rise in deaths, infections also rose 20% from a day earlier to 47,610.
Meanwhile the UN is launching a US$ 2 billion plan to develop a humanitarian response to COVID-19 in the poorest countries. The plan was launched in tandem with the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF to support vulnerable communities in the world.
The UN secretary-general appealed to governments to support the initiative financially.
If we do not act decisively now, I fear that the virus will establish a foothold in the most fragile of countries, leaving the world more vulnerable as it continues to circle the planet, Antonio Guterres said.