United States now has the most coronavirus cases in the world
The United States now has the most reported coronavirus cases in the world, surpassing China and Italy, with the three countries accounting for almost half of the world's infections.
The US has registered nearly 86,000 cases, including fewer than 800 recoveries, while China counted about 81,000 cases, more than 74,000 of which had already recovered, according to data collected by the Johns Hopkins University in the US. For its part, Italy has logged more than 80,000 cases, with 10,360 recoveries and some 8,200 deaths.
The US has registered about 1,300 deaths, almost a quarter of them in New York City, where hospitals are overwhelmed.
In China, where the virus was believed to have been transferred from wild animals to humans, the National Health Commission on Friday reported 55 new cases, including 54 it said were imported infections in recent arrivals from overseas.
There were no new cases reported in Wuhan, the provincial capital where the coronavirus is reported to have emerged from late last year.
US President Donald Trump, who had until recently insisted on calling the new coronavirus the "Chinese virus", tweeted on Friday that he and China's President Xi Jinping had "a very good conversation" and discussed "in great detail the CoronaVirus that is ravaging large parts of our Planet."
The economic damage from the pandemic was growing as a record-shattering 3.3 million US citizens applied for unemployment benefits in a single week - nearly five times the old record, set in 1982.
Job losses have swept across sectors from food services to retail to transportation, as nearly half of the country has closed to non-essential businesses.
"It is staggering. We are only seeing the initial numbers. They will get worse, unfortunately," New York Mayor Bill de Blasio told reporters, estimating that half a million people in the city would lose work.
But stock markets continued to climb on Friday, with Asian bourses in the green after a third straight day of rises on Wall Street.
Traders have taken heart from the passage through the Senate of a $2 trillion stimulus bill - the largest in US history, which will support the country's businesses and provide cash payouts to people.
The rescue plan, which is expected to be voted on in the House of Representatives on Friday, would initially dispense cheques of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child.