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Global COVID-19 cases exceed 3 million

Global confirmed cases of COVID-19 passed 3 million as New Zealand, several European nations and a few U.S. states took steps to ease lockdowns.

Global confirmed cases of COVID-19 passed the 3 million mark on Monday as New Zealand, several European nations and a few U.S. states took steps to emerge from prolonged lockdowns aimed at slowing transmissions.

A third of those cases are in the United States, which has become the epicenter of the global coronavirus pandemic. The number of U.S. cases neared the 1 million mark accompanied by over 56,000 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University and Google data trackers. That is fast approaching the 58,220 American lives lost in the Vietnam War, which ended 45 years ago this week.

Next hardest hit in terms of lives lost are Italy, Spain, France and the United Kingdom. Globally, the worldwide death toll surpassed 206,000.

New Zealand, which quickly imposed lockdown measures, was starting to allow people to visit close family and to reopen some schools. Authorities in Germany and Switzerland, where the proportion of deaths to number of infections has been lower than many other nations, moved cautiously to lift some of the restrictions imposed to slow the virus, based on some hopeful signs of improvement.

In Germany, where many schools and shops have reopened, the rate of new infections fell below 1,000 for the first time in more than five weeks. Switzerland was allowing medical and dental offices, hair salons, florists and some other shops to reopen using face masks and other protective measures.

Even in some of the hard-hit nations such as Italy, Spain and France, preparations were being made to let businesses rebuild the nations' battered economies and allow children back into closed schools.

Many African countries, which confronted previous epidemics like HIV and Ebola, are using stay-at-home orders. Africa's confirmed cases reached 30,329 in 52 countries with 1,374 deaths, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, part of the 55-nation African Union.

'Far from over'

Also Monday, the U.N. health agency’s director-general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, warned that the coronavirus pandemic is not going away anytime soon.

"As lockdowns in Europe ease with declining numbers of new cases, we continue to urge countries to find, isolate, test and treat all cases of COVID-19 and trace every contact, to ensure these declining trends continue," the World Health Organization's chief told a news briefing.

"But the pandemic is far from over. WHO continues to be concerned about the increasing trends in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and some Asian countries," said Tedros, an Ethiopian politician and health expert. "As in all regions, cases and deaths are underreported in many countries in these regions because of low testing capacity."

It was only on March 7 that WHO marked confirmed infections had surpassed 100 000. Four days later, the U.N. health agency declared a global pandemic — the worldwide spread of a new disease —  signifying the first time a coronavirus gained that distinction.

It took more than three months for global coronavirus infections to surpass the 1 million mark along with 52,000 deaths on April 2, and just over two weeks more for the pandemic to add another 1 million confirmed cases and 84,000 deaths.

The 2 million mark for confirmed cases, accompanied by more than 136,000 deaths, came on April 15. The 3 million mark, with 206,000 deaths, was reached 12 days later.