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Global coronavirus death toll surpasses 200,000, as world leaders commit to finding vaccine

"We will only halt COVID-19 through solidarity," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General.
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The global coronavirus death toll surpassed 200,000 on Saturday, according to John Hopkins University data.

The grim total was reached a day after presidents and prime ministers agreed to work together to develop new vaccines, tests and treatments at a virtual meeting with both the World Health Organization (WHO) and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

"We will only halt COVID-19 through solidarity," said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General. "Countries, health partners, manufacturers, and the private sector must act together and ensure that the fruits of science and research can benefit everybody."

As the U.S. coronavirus death tollpassed 51,000 people, according to an NBC News tally, President Donald Trump took no questions at his White House briefing on Friday, after widespread mockery for floating the idea that light, heat and disinfectants could be used to treat coronavirus patients.

The idea was widely derided. Doctors called it dangerous and irresponsible, while state and local government agencies and disinfectant manufacturers warned the products should not be ingested or injected.

Trump later claimed that his suggestions had been made "sarcastically" as he signed a $484 billion coronavirus aid package bill.

Anti-lockdown protests also continued to rumble across several U.S. states. Thousands of demonstrators assembled in Wisconsin's state Capitol on Friday. Many expressed loud opposition to an extended stay-at-home order put in place by Democratic Gov. Tony Evers due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Elsewhere, pockets of hope started to emerge in several countries.

China recorded 10 straight days without any new deaths, as of Friday, its National Health Commission said.

Nearby South Korea too marked no deaths from COVID-19 for the last three days, while recording fewer than 30 new cases over the past two weeks, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

Europe continued to present a mixed picture with some nations, such as Germany and Spain, beginning to ease social restrictions and others such as the U.K. — where hospital deaths from coronavirus hit 20,000 on Saturday — are still grappling with climbing death tolls.

In Italy, which has been the hardest-hit country in Europe, the country's Higher Health Institute suggested on Friday that the coronavirus epidemic may have started much earlier than previously thought in Lombardy and other parts of north — potentially in January, or earlier, officials said.

Italy has lost almost 26,000 people to coronavirus so far, according to an NBC News tally, but leaders said the country was now entering phase two of the epidemic, with less stringent social distancing measures and a wider use of protective devices and testing in place.

Nearby Greece has recorded a significantly lower outbreak of COVID-19 than many other European nations. It extended its general coronavirus lockdown by a week to May 4, as authorities continued to impose a blanket shutdown of public life to stem the contagion.

The Greek finance minister, Christos Staikouras, also warned on Saturday that the economy, hit by coronavirus restrictions, was expected to shrink by 5-10 percent this year.

The country is already one of Europe's most fragile economies, but other nations have also said they will suffer some of the worst financial setbacks since the end of the second world war, due to the impacts of the virus.

Meanwhile in the Middle East, the Saudi-led coalition on Friday said it was extending a unilateral ceasefire in war-torn Yemen, by one month to support efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

Many Muslims around the world will begin the fasting month of Ramadan this weekend, while governments contend with how to limit large gatherings and communal prayers to stem the spread of the virus.

Reuters contributed to this report.