ROME: Hundreds of millions of people around the world will spend the Easter holiday at home as lockdown measures intensify to combat the coronavirus, a pandemic with a global death toll rapidly approaching 100,000.
Governments have forced businesses to close and limited the movement of half the world's population, halting economic activity and prompting the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to warn that the world faces its worst downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Some 17 million Americans have so far lost their jobs, prompting the US government to launch a $2.3 trillion rescue package, while the European Union late Thursday struck a 500-billion euro deal to help hard-hit member states.
The United States is now emerging as the global hotspot of the virus.
More than 1,700 people died on Thursday from almost 500,000 cases, the second highest death toll of any country and the largest number of cases anywhere in the world.
Hundreds of deaths across Europe on Thursday helped to drive the confirmed global toll above 94,000 with nearly half of the deaths reported in the past week.
However, spirits were lifted in Britain as Prime Minister Boris Johnson -- among the world's most high-profile virus sufferers -- was moved to a normal hospital ward after three days in intensive care.
And across Europe and the United States, officials sought solace in slightly improving figures.
Spain, the third hardest-hit country, saw its lowest day toll in 17 days, and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Thursday the "fire started by the pandemic is starting to come under control".
France also reported that fewer people were in intensive care for COVID-19, the first fall since the pandemic broke out.
Anthony Fauci, the US government's top pandemic expert, said the United States was "going in the right direction" after a slight drop in the US daily death rate from Wednesday's record toll of 1,973.
In New York, the epicentre of the virus in the United States, the rate of hospital admissions fell on Thursday and state Governor Andrew Cuomo said the actions taken in the state were "flattening the curve", referring to attempts to keep the death rate from spiking.
Easter pilgrimage sites across the Middle East, Europe and Asia stood empty on Friday, shorn of the customary Easter holiday hustle.
Even such hallowed traditions as the pope's Easter message are being revamped -- Pope Francis will live-stream from the seclusion of his private library.
"We have to respond to our confinement with all our creativity," said the pontiff.
"We can either get depressed and alienated...or we can get creative." The travel industry is one of the hardest-hit sectors but the fallout is shaking every corner of the financial world.