MADRID (Dispatches) -- Deaths from the global coronavirus epidemic accelerated again on Friday as the U.S., Spain and Britain grappled with their highest tolls yet and the world economy took a massive hit.
With more than 53,000 dead, the threat has never been more stark. Experts warn that the more than one million cases of COVID-19 confirmed globally are probably just a small proportion of total infections, as testing is not widely available.
In the space of just 24 hours, 6,095 infected people died - nearly twice the total number of deaths in China, where the virus and COVID-19, the disease it causes, originated.
Atop the grim tally of officially reported data are Italy, with 13,915 deaths, and Spain, with 10,935. But the United States is becoming the new epicenter, with 243,635 cases - by far the most of any nation - and 5,887 deaths.
Prosperous countries in Europe and North America are currently bearing the brunt of the disease but -- with infections also reported in war zones and refugee camps -- there are fears of a new explosion among the world’s most vulnerable.
"The worst is yet to come,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said, referring to countries beset with fighting like Syria, Libya and Yemen. "The COVID-19 storm is now coming to all these theatres of conflict.”
For the moment, the United States accounts for around a quarter of confirmed cases, but Europe is far from being out of danger -- Spain reported more than 900 deaths in 24 hours on Friday, for the second day running.
While Italy still leads the world in fatalities, France, Belgium and Britain have also been hard hit. The UK government opened a 4,000-bed field hospital on Friday ahead announcing its highest one-day toll of 684.
The virus has now killed more than 10,000 people across Spain.
The world economy has been pummeled by the virus and the associated lockdowns, with more than half the population of the planet under some kind of stay-at-home order.
The U.S. economy shed 701,000 jobs last month, its worst since March 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis, boosting the jobless rate to 4.4 percent for the first time in 45 years.
Things were no better in Europe, where analysts from IHS Markit warned that business activity in the 19-nation eurozone had suffered its worst crunch ever recorded, and the central bank of eurozone member
Ireland said its output could be slashed by 8.3 percent this year.
Financial ratings agency Fitch predicted both the U.S. and eurozone economies would shrink this quarter by up to 30 percent and the Asian Development Bank warned on Friday the global economy could take a $4.1 trillion hit -- equivalent to five percent of worldwide output.
The virus has chiefly killed the elderly and those with pre-existing medical conditions, but recent cases of deaths among teenagers and babies have highlighted the dangers for people of all ages.