US braces for ‘hardest’ week in war on virus

AFP
April 07, 2020

LONDON: The coronavirus threatened Americans with their hardest week in living memory on Monday and put Britain´s prime minister in hospital, despite early signs that some of Europe´s...

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LONDON: The coronavirus threatened Americans with their hardest week in living memory on Monday and put Britain´s prime minister in hospital, despite early signs that some of Europe´s hardest-hit countries may be turning a corner.US reported more than 20,000 new cases with more than 900 new deaths, while Italy reported 3,600 new cases with 636 deaths and Spain 3,400 new cases with 528 new deaths as coronavirus claimed over 1,330,566 coronavirus cases with over 74,000 deaths across the world on Monday. In last 24 hour more than 4,650 people died of the deadly virus.

The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 50,000 people in Europe, mostly in Italy, Spain, France and Britain, according to an AFP tally on Monday.

With a total of 50,209 deaths, Europe is the continent with the most COVID-19 fatalities, out of 675,580 declared cases. Hardest-hit Italy has 15,877 deaths and Spain 13,055. France has reported 8,078 fatalities while Britain has 4,934.

Japan announced an imminent state of emergency and a trillion-dollar stimulus package, while the US surgeon general compared the likely impact of the epidemic in the week ahead to 9/11 or Pearl Harbor and France warned of the worst economic slump since World War II.

Meanwhile, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said Monday the government plans to declare a state of emergency and proposed a stimulus package worth $1 trillion as new coronavirus infections spike in Tokyo and elsewhere. “We hope to declare a state of emergency as early as tomorrow after listening to the opinions of the advisory panel,” Abe told reporters. He added the government would roll out a stimulus package worth around 108 trillion yen to cushion the damage to the world´s third-biggest economy.

The new coronavirus has reached almost every corner of the planet, confining nearly half of humanity to their homes and turning life upside down for billions.

About three quarters of all deaths have been clocked in Europe, and the US now has the most recorded cases of any country — along with a steadily rising death toll.

“This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans´ lives, quite frankly,” US Surgeon General Jerome Adams told Fox News ahead of what is expected to be a tough week for already hard-pressed American healthcare providers. “This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it´s not going to be localised.”

In Tokyo, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said hospitals in Japan face a “critical situation” and that an emergency could be declared as early as Tuesday. “We´re currently seeing rapid increases of new infections particularly in urban areas like Tokyo and Osaka,” he said.

But there was hope in parts of Europe after a weekend that saw Italy reporting its lowest death toll in two weeks and France its fewest dead in a week. “The curve has started its descent and the number of deaths has started to drop,” said top Italian health official Silvio Brusaferro, adding the next phase could be a gradual easing of a strict month-long lockdown. In Spain, nurse Empar Loren said: “The situation is more stable. The number of patients in intensive care is not growing much anymore, and we are starting to discharge quite a few.”

Hard-hit Spain recorded deaths down for a fourth straight day Monday — but still logged 637 fatalities.

The effective mothballing of the global economy is beginning to hit hard with analysts warning millions of jobs will be lost despite unprecedented stimulus programmes.

Germany announced that the government would guarantee loans for small businesses but France was gloomy, with Finance Minister Bruno le Maire estimating that the 2020 crunch would be “far beyond” the previous post-1945 worst case.

Iran, whose economy has suffered the double blow of the virus and punishing US sanctions, said it would allow “low-risk” economic activity to resume as daily infection rates fell for a fifth straight day.

But some in poorer countries are already chafing against curfews destroying their livelihoods. “How can anyone stay home without anything to eat?” asked Garcia Landu, a motorcycle taxi driver in Angola´s bustling capital, Luanda. “Better to die of this disease or gunshot than to starve to death.”

Despite the gloom, heartwarming examples of humanity around the globe have lifted spirits, with ordinary people doing what they can to help those on the medical front line. And in the southern Italian city of Naples, a street artist lowered a “solidarity food basket” from his balcony, hollering: “If you can, put something in. If you can´t, take something out”. “We started by putting a piece of bread, a bag of pasta, a box of peeled tomatoes,” said English-language tutor Teresa Cardo, who also lowered a basket. “And two hours later, the basket was completely full.”

Spain declared Monday a fourth consecutive drop in the number of coronavirus-related deaths with 637 over the past 24 hours, the lowest number in nearly two weeks. Fatalities, which were sharply down on the record 950 on Thursday, brought the total deaths in the country to 13,055, second only to Italy.

Meanwhile, a major private hospital in Mumbai was shut to new patients and declared a coronavirus containment zone on Monday after 26 nurses and three doctors tested positive, an official said. Since the virus hit India — which has been under lockdown since March 25 with 111 deaths so far — medical workers have complained about not being given adequate protective gear.

Mumbai city authority spokesman Vijay Khabale-Patil said that the Wockhardt Hospital has been declared a “containment zone” after the cases were confirmed. “Three hundred staffers have been quarantined and the hospital is shut,” he said.

The United Nurses Association (UNA) in Mumbai accused hospital management of failing to protect staff by refusing to let them wear appropriate safety gear. “They told the medical staffers to wear simple (surgical) masks and attend to the patient,” said Akash S. Pillai, UNA general secretary for Maharashtra state, of which Mumbai is the capital. “They were thinking that if the staff wore protective gear, family members of COVID-19 patients would get scared,” he said. “Many well-known hospitals in Mumbai” were exposing their workers to the same risks, he said.

He added that Wockhardt waited too long to carry out tests on its staff, thereby increasing the possibility of infections spreading.

Meanwhile, more than 80 passengers and crew aboard an Australian cruise ship off South America have tested positive for the coronavirus, the cruise company and officials in Uruguay announced Monday.

Uruguay´s public health ministry said six passengers with “life-threatening” illness had been taken off the Greg Mortimer for treatment in Montevideo, but the rest of more than 200 passengers and crew remain stranded on the vessel anchored some 15 miles off the coast.

The vessel was on a voyage to Antarctica and South Georgia with Australian tour company Aurora Expeditions, leaving the Argentine port of Ushuaia on March 15.

Aurora said 81 passengers and crew had tested positive for COVID-19 after being assessed by a team of Uruguayan infectious disease specialists who were brought aboard at the weekend. “We know that there is a relatively high percentage of infected people but only six required to be transferred to Montevideo hospitals because they were at risk,” Uruguay´s Foreign Minister Ernesto Talvi told local Channel 10 news.



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