Health authorities around the world are scrambling to set up more hospital beds and access medical supplies as the death toll from the coronavirus nears 13,600.
Italy, Iran and the United States have reported soaring new death tolls as the coronavirus pandemic marched relentlessly across the globe, prompting a scramble in hard-hit regions to set up more hospital beds and replenish the dwindling medical supplies needed to keep health workers safe.
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte went on live TV to announce that he was tightening the country’s lockdown and shutting down all production facilities except those providing essential goods and services.
Italy now has 59,138 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 5,476 deaths — more than all of China, where the virus first emerged late last year.
Meanwhile, in Germany, new measure to try to contain the virus included banning meetings of more than two people outside of the home and work.
And German Chancellor Angela Merkel has gone into quarantine after being informed that a doctor who administered a vaccine to her has tested positive for the new coronavirus.
Merkel, 65, was informed about the doctor’s test shortly after holding a news conference Sunday announcing new measures to curb the spread of the virus, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
He said that Merkel had received a precautionary vaccine Friday against pneumococcal infection.
New York Mayor: It’s only going to get worse
The US government’s top infectious disease expert said he remains hopeful the US is not on the same trajectory as Italy in the coronavirus struggle.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CBS’ Face the Nation the stringent measures being put in place in the U.S., including travel restrictions, the closing of schools and many businesses and other social distancing, will go “a long way.”
New York City’s mayor told people at the epicenter of the U.S. pandemic that it’s only going to get worse.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said on NBC’s Meet the Press that his city is in desperate need of ventilators and other medical supplies and staff, and lambasted the White House as non-responsive. He said he had asked “repeatedly” for the US military to mobilise, and had heard nothing back.
Nationwide, there were at least 26,747 cases and 374 deaths as the US overtook Germany as the country with the fourth-highest number of cases. At least 38 people tested positive at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex — more than half of them inmates. Another inmate became the first in the U.S. to test positive in a federal jail.
Doctors, nurses say ‘we’re cannon fodder’
In Britain, where the death toll rose to 281, staff at some hospitals have complained about shortages of ventilators and protective equipment like face masks, safety glasses, gloves and protective suits.
Almost 4000 medical workers signed a letter to the Sunday Times warning that doctors and nurses in the National Health Service would die if they did not receive better equipment and said they felt like “cannon fodder.”
“NHS staff are putting their lives on the line every day they turn up to work. The reality is that many of us will get sick. Doctors are all too aware of the possibility that they will lose colleagues, as has happened in outbreaks around the world,” the letter said.
Iran’s supreme leader refused US assistance Sunday to fight the virus, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory that it could be made by America.
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comments came as Iran faces crushing U.S. sanctions over its nuclear actions. Iran says it has 1,685 deaths and 21,638 confirmed cases of the virus — a toll that experts from the World Health Organisation say is almost certainly under-reported.
Worldwide, more than 316,000 people have been infected and nearly 13,600 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. About 150 countries now have confirmed cases, and deaths have been reported in more than 30 American states.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever or coughing. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. Some 93,800 people have recovered, mostly in China.
Normality slowly resuming in China
The Chinese city of Wuhan — where the global pandemic was first detected and the first city to be locked down — went a fourth consecutive day without reporting any new or suspected cases.
Wuhan must go 14 straight days without a new case in order for draconian travel restrictions to be lifted, but a special train brought in more than 1,000 car factory employees for the first time since the outbreak.
Parks and other public gathering places were reopening in China as people return to work and businesses resumed. However, the country has placed increasing restrictions on those coming from overseas.
All arrivals to Beijing from abroad must be quarantine themselves for two weeks in a hotel at their own expense. And beginning Monday, flights into the capital will be diverted to airports in other cities, where passengers will have to pass a health inspection.
China’s first recent case of community infection was reported Sunday in the southern province of Guangzhou, reportedly caught from a Turkish arrival.
Borders close, flights slashed
Borders kept closing and airlines kept slashing flights.
Dubai carrier Emirates says it has dramatically cut its passenger flight destinations to 13, down from 145.
The state-owned carrier says it will still fly to the US, the UK, Japan, Australia and Canada.
The company had just hours earlier announced a suspension of all passenger flights, but reversed that decision after receiving requests from governments and customers to support the repatriation of travellers.
After recording its first two deaths, Singapore said it will fully shut its borders beginning Tuesday. All short-term visitors will be barred while returning locals will face a 14-day quarantine. Sri Lanka blocked all passenger flights and ships from entering.
In Spain, Europe’s hardest-hit country after Italy, intensive care units in some areas were close to their limits even before Sunday’s new tally of 28,572 infections and 1,720 deaths.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said he wants to extend the national state of emergency that includes strict measures to combat the coronavirus, meaning the countrywide lockdown will last at least one month.
Fernando Simón, director of Spain’s center for health alerts and emergencies, said that over 3,400 health workers have been infected, more than 10% of the total. “This is a statistic that concerns us,” he said.
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