JEDDAH: Pope Francis prayed for coronavirus victims on Sunday in an Easter message delivered from an almost deserted St. Peter’s Basilica to a world under coronavirus lockdown.
“For many, this is an Easter of solitude lived amid the sorrow and hardship that the pandemic is causing, from physical suffering to economic difficulties,” the pope said.
He urged world leaders to put aside political differences during the most serious health emergency in 100 years.
“This is not a time for division,” the pope said.
“May Christ enlighten all who have responsibility in conflicts, that they may have the courage to support the appeal for an immediate global cease-fire in all corners of the world.”
As the pope spoke, Italy reported its lowest coronavirus death toll in more than three weeks, confirming trends showing that the COVID-19 outbreak in Europe’s worst-hit nation had peaked. The 431 new deaths were the lowest since March 19. Italy’s death total is now 19,899, second only to the US.
Americans also spent Sunday on lockdown as the toll from the pandemic passed 21,300 deaths and more than half-a-million confirmed cases over the Easter weekend.
Nevertheless, public health experts and some state governors believe there may be a turnaround in the US fight against the outbreak, with fewer patients in New York requiring hospital treatment or intensive care.
In the UK, Prime Minister Boris Johnson left hospital after a week of treatment for COVID-19, including three days in intensive care. Johnson, 55, thanked the National Health Service for saving his life. “Things could have gone either way,” he said.
Saudi Arabia reported 429 new virus cases on Sunday, increasing the total to 4,462, and seven more patients died, raising the death toll to 59. The Kingdom extended a nationwide curfew until further notice.
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 1.8 million people, and more than 112,000 have died.