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March 25, 2020

World entering ‘critical period’: health officials

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P
Pa
March 25, 2020

LONDON: Health officials and leaders warned the world was entering a critical period that would determine just how deeply the coronavirus pandemic slices through their nations.

Nations in Europe, North America and elsewhere pressed harder to enforce the stay-at-home restrictions placed on 1.5 billion people worldwide. Those measures could have a significant impact on the trajectory that the virus will take as it spreads across the world.

The World Health Organisation said infections and deaths globally from coronavirus are expected to increase “considerably” when global figures are published later Tuesday. Dr Margaret Harris said overnight reporting showed 85 per cent of the new cases are being reported in Europe and the United States. On Monday, WHO counted more than 334,000 total cases globally. Dr Harris said “but in fact the outbreak is accelerating very rapidly and the case numbers we received overnight will put that up considerably”.

“We are not helpless bystanders,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, noting that it took 67 days to reach 100,000 cases worldwide but just four days to go from 200,000 to 300,000. We can change the trajectory of this pandemic.” One viral social media video showed Italian mayors, sometimes profanely, berating their fellow citizens for not staying inside.

In the UK, a total of 422 patients who tested positive for coronavirus died in the UK as of 1pm on Tuesday, the NHS said. On Capitol Hill, a nearly two trillion dollar plan that would prop up businesses and send money to American households has stalled in Washington for days, but officials said they expect to reach a deal later Tuesday.

Authorities say the US is on track to eventually overtake China’s nearly 82,000 infections and how soon that happens depends on how seriously Americans take the state-at-home restrictions.

In New York, now one of the world’s biggest virus hotspots, authorities rushed to set up the thousands of hospital beds they will need in just weeks to protect the city’s 8.4 million people. More than 12,000 people have tested positive in the city and 125 have died. A state-wide lockdown took effect Monday.

The mayor warned that the city’s hospitals are just 10 days away from shortages in basic supplies, while the state’s governor announced plans to convert a New York City convention centre into a hospital.

“This is going to get much worse before it gets better,” New York governor Andrew Cuomo said. Nearly 384,000 people worldwide have been infected and more than 16,500 have died from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In Italy, Spain and France, the pandemic is pushing national health systems to their breaking points. The outbreak has killed more than 6,000 Italians, the highest death toll of any country.

Officials said Monday the virus had claimed just over 600 more lives, down from 793 two days earlier, offering some glimmer of hope. The risks remain for doctors, nurses and others on the frontlines: Italy has seen at least 18 doctors with the coronavirus die.

Spain says 12 per cent of its cases, more than 3,900 health care workers, have become infected. A Madrid ice rink is now being used as a makeshift morgue as the number of bodies of virus victims in the Spanish capital mounts.

Overwhelmed by a virus hotspot in its eastern city of Mulhouse, France was getting help from hospitals in neighbouring Germany and Switzerland.

Asian stock markets reacted positively Tuesday, markets in Japan and South Korea posting significant gains after the Federal Reserve said it will lend to small and large businesses and local governments to help them through the crisis.