The United States has passed 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus pandemic, as a record-breaking wave of new infections forces authorities in Europe to reimpose lockdown restrictions.

A family watch as Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the nation on Covid-19 restrictions A family watch as Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson addresses the nation on Covid-19 restrictions Photo: AFP / Paul ELLIS

 

The world's most powerful nation hit the figure just 41 days before a presidential election, and as the World Health Organization warned that new cases worldwide have risen to record highs.

US President Donald Trump -- who faces a tough re-election fight and is trailing Democrat Joe Biden in the polls -- said the 200,000 milestone was "a shame" and deflected blame onto China.

A healthcare worker looks out the window of La Paz hospital, in Madrid, as Spain's health minister calls on residents of the city to limit their movements and social contacts to the "essential A healthcare worker looks out the window of La Paz hospital, in Madrid, as Spain's health minister calls on residents of the city to limit their movements and social contacts to the "essential" Photo: AFP / PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU

 

Trump used a video address to the annual United Nations General Assembly to attack Beijing for not stopping the spread of what he called the "China virus."

"We must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world -- China," he told the UN's diplomatic showcase event, which is being held almost entirely online because of the pandemic.

Candidates for Indonesian civil servant jobs sit an exam inside a plastic chamber after they tested positive for COVID-19 Candidates for Indonesian civil servant jobs sit an exam inside a plastic chamber after they tested positive for COVID-19 Photo: AFP / JUNI KRISWANTO

 

Trump has repeatedly played down the seriousness of the coronavirus crisis, even as the United States has suffered one of the world's highest death tolls.

According to an AFP tally, worldwide more than 31 million people have been infected and nearly 962,000 have died from Covid-19 since the virus emerged in the eastern Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.

A memorial for the 200,000 people who have died as a result of COVID-19 is seen on the National Mall in Washington, DC A memorial for the 200,000 people who have died as a result of COVID-19 is seen on the National Mall in Washington, DC Photo: AFP / Alex Edelman

 

The World Health Organization reported late Monday that almost two million infections were recorded around the globe in the single week to September 20.

The six percent increase versus the previous week is "the highest number of reported cases in a single week since the beginning of the epidemic", the UN health agency said.

A television broadcasts Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing Britain about the latest updates on the novel coronavirus COVID-19 restrictions A television broadcasts Prime Minister Boris Johnson addressing Britain about the latest updates on the novel coronavirus COVID-19 restrictions Photo: AFP / JUSTIN TALLIS

 

 

 

Hairdressers in protective suits attend to customers at a hair and beauty salon in Ahmedabad, India Hairdressers in protective suits attend to customers at a hair and beauty salon in Ahmedabad, India Photo: AFP / SAM PANTHAKY

 

In Europe, a surge forced Prime Minister Boris Johnson to announce fresh steps to try to allay the rising death toll.

"To help contain the virus, office workers who can work effectively from home should do so," the government said, despite fears of a devastating economic impact.

Volunteers from the COVID Memorial Project have placed 200,000 American flags on the National Mall as the United States crosses the threshold of 200,000 lives lost in the COVID-19 pandemic. Volunteers from the COVID Memorial Project have placed 200,000 American flags on the National Mall as the United States crosses the threshold of 200,000 lives lost in the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: AFPTV / Agnes BUN

 

New rules come into force for pubs and other hospitality venues on Thursday and plans to allow fans back into sporting events have been ditched.

Several Premier League football players have tested positive, sending them into isolation and forcing games to be postponed.

Saudi Arabia announced that it will gradually resume the year-round umrah pilgrimage for Muslims from October 4 Saudi Arabia announced that it will gradually resume the year-round umrah pilgrimage for Muslims from October 4 Photo: AFP / -

 

Johnson warned the new restrictions could last up to six months and called for a collective effort to "get through this winter together".

His scientific advisors had said the United Kingdom could see a devastating 50,000 coronavirus cases a day by mid-October if no action is taken.

A worker cleans a room in a COVID-19 isolation center in Havana, Cuba A worker cleans a room in a COVID-19 isolation center in Havana, Cuba Photo: AFP / YAMIL LAGE

 

"Never in our history has our collective destiny and our collective health depended so completely on our individual behaviour," said Johnson, who like Trump has been widely criticised for his handling of the pandemic.

Even with citizens weary of months of social distancing and previously unthinkable restrictions on their lives, hundreds of millions face harsher measures to come.

After months of brutal lockdown was eased, Spain's health minister on Tuesday called on Madrid residents to limit their movements and social contact to the "essential".

Some 850,000 people in part of the Madrid region are now again under lockdown.

Across Europe, hundreds of major events have been scaled back or cancelled.

For the first time since 1944 the most august of all gatherings, the Nobel prize ceremony, will not take place as normal in Stockholm this year, and will instead be televised.

The Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Norway in December will also be scaled back.

Austria Chancellor Sebastian Kurz told AFP that fighting the pandemic remained "a very big challenge", as his country extended mandatory mask wearing and re-instated some restrictions imposed earlier this year.

"I am still relatively young, but I have been part of the Austrian government for many years and I thought I had already been through a lot politically," the 34-year-old conservative leader said in an interview.

"The corona crisis now exceeds all previous experiences of course."

 

 

In a rare glimmer of hope, Saudi Arabia announced that it will gradually resume the year-round umrah pilgrimage for Muslims from October 4.

The kingdom had suspended the umrah in March and later scaled back the annual hajj in a blow to millions of Muslim pilgrims around the world amid fears that the coronavirus could spread to Islam's holiest sites.

 

In Australia, authorities eased some restrictions that had seen domestic inter-state travel virtually banned.

Like neighbouring New Zealand, restrictions have driven the rate of community transmission close to zero in much of Australia.