Coronavirus Latest Updates: The coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 30,000 lives in Europe alone, a global tally showed on Wednesday, in what the head of the United Nations has described as humanity’s worst crisis since World War II. Italy and Spain bore the brunt of the crisis, accounting for three in every four deaths on the continent, as the grim tally hit another milestone even though half of the planet’s population is already under some form of lockdown in a battle to halt contagion.
Spain reported a record 864 deaths in 24 hours, pushing the country’s number of fatalities past 9,000. The toll is only dwarfed by Italy’s, where the virus has killed nearly 12,500 people. Since emerging in China in December, COVID-19 has spread across the globe, claiming over 43,000 lives and infecting more than 860,000 people, according to an AFP tally.
UN’s secretary general, António Guterres said the coronavirus pandemic as the most challenging crisis since the second world war.
Here are key developments worldwide:
Europe faces ICU bed crunch, rushes to build field hospitals
Facing intense surges in the need for hospital ICU beds, European nations are on a building and hiring spree, throwing together makeshift hospitals and shipping coronavirus patients out of overwhelmed cities via high-speed trains and military jets.
The key question is whether they will be able to find enough healthy medical staff to make it all work. Even as the virus slowed its growth in overwhelmed Italy and in China, where it first emerged, hospitals in Spain and France reached their breaking points and the U.S. and Britain braced for incoming waves of desperately ill people.
“It feels like we are in a third world country. We don’t have enough masks, enough protective equipment, and by the end of the week we might be in need of more medication too,” said Paris emergency worker Christophe Prudhomme to AFP.
In a remarkable turnaround, rich economies where virus cases have exploded are welcoming help from the less wealthy. Russia sent medical equipment and masks to the US on Wednesday. Cuba sent doctors to France. Turkey sent a planeload of masks, hazmat suits, goggles and disinfectants to Italy and Spain.
New York becomes US’s biggest hotspot
New York has become the nation’s biggest hotspot, with around 1,550 deaths statewide, most of them in New York City, which braced for things to get much worse in the coming weeks. A 1,000-bed emergency hospital set up at the mammoth Javits Convention Center began taking non-coronavirus patients to help relieve the city’s overwhelmed health system. A Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds was expected to begin accepting patients Tuesday.
An indoor tennis center that was supposed to host the US Open tournament is being turned into a hospital as well. Nearly 80,000 former nurses, doctors and others are said to be stepping forward to help deal with the crisis.
Officials said they are doing background checks and making sure they are fit for duty. Around the city, workers in protective gear have been seen putting bodies of victims into refrigerated trailers. At some hospitals, like Lenox Hill in Manhattan, the trucks are parked on streets, along sidewalks and in front of apartments.
Cars and buses passed by as corpses were loaded by forklift at Brooklyn Hospital Center. People captured some of the scenes by cellphone.
Spain death toll tops 9,000 as infections pass 100,000: govt
The coronavirus death toll in Spain surged over 9,000 on Wednesday after a record 864 deaths in 24 hours, with the number of confirmed cases passing the 100,000 mark, the government said.
Spain has the world’s second-highest death toll after Italy, with the virus so far claiming 9,053 lives and the number of confirmed cases reaching 102,136, although the rate of new infections continued its downward trend, health ministry figures showed.
Meanwhile, in France, nearly 500 have died in 24 hours. The country’s health authorities announced an increase of 499 deaths of patients in its hospitals on Tuesday; the biggest rise since the start of the pandemic.
World faces food crisis in wake of coronavirus: UN, WTO
The heads of three global agencies warned Wednesday of the risk of a worldwide “food shortage” if authorities fail to manage the ongoing coronavirus crisis properly. Many governments around the world have put their populations on lockdown causing severe slow-downs in international trade and food supply chains.
Panic buying by people going into confinement has already demonstrated the fragility of supply chains as supermarket shelves emptied in many countries. “Uncertainty about food availability can spark a wave of export restrictions, creating a shortage on the global market,” said the joint text signed by Qu Dongyu, head of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) and Roberto Azevedo, director of the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
“In the midst of the COVID-19 lockdowns, every effort must be made to ensure that trade flows as freely as possible, specially to avoid food shortage(s)” from developing, they said in their statement.
Iran hits out at US as virus death toll passes 3,000
Iran’s death toll from the coronavirus has passed 3,000, the health ministry said on Wednesday, as President Hassan Rouhani accused Washington of missing a “historic opportunity” to lift sanctions.
Tensions between the arch-foes have soared since President Donald Trump abandoned a landmark nuclear agreement in 2018 and reimposed sweeping sanctions. Tehran has repeatedly called on Washington to reverse its policy, which has been opposed by US allies, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
Health ministry spokesman Kianoush Jahanpour said the coronavirus death toll in Iran now stood at 3,036 following 138 new fatalities in the past 24 hours.
He added that 2,987 new cases had been confirmed, bringing the total to 47,593, with 15,473 of those hospitalised having recovered and been discharged.
This was the best, historic opportunity for the Americans to reverse their wrong path and for once, tell their nation they are not against the Iranian people,” Rouhani said in televised comments at a cabinet meeting.
They “did not learn their lesson even during this difficult global situation,” he said.
White House stresses dire US death toll predictions
President Donald Trump on Tuesday warned Americans to brace for a “hell of a bad two weeks” ahead as the White House projected there could be 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the US from the coronavirus pandemic even if current social distancing guidelines are maintained.
But Dr Deborah Birx, part of the team leading the US response to the pandemic, says the model doesn’t assume every American does everything they’re supposed to do, “so it can be lower than that”. In the United States, over 800 fresh deaths have been recorded on Tuesday, by far the most for a single day, news agency Reuters reported.
Turkmenistan bans media from using the word ‘coronavirus’
An international media freedom watchdog says the autocratic ex-Soviet nation of Turkmenistan has banned the media from using the word “coronavirus.”
Explained | Rate of COVID-19 spread in India, world
Reporters Without Borders said Tuesday the word also has been removed from health information brochures distributed in schools, hospitals and workplaces. The gas-rich Central Asian nation that neighbors Iran so far has reported no cases of the new coronavirus. Iran has reported more than 44,000 cases.
Paris-based Reporters Without Borders said people wearing face masks or talking about the coronavirus are liable to be arrested by plainclothes police. Ranked last in the group’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index, Turkmenistan is one of the world’s most closed countries. Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has ruled the country since 2006 through an all-encompassing personality cult that styles him as Turkmenistan’s “arkadaq,” or protector.
Sri Lanka records highest single-day jump in coronavirus cases
The total number of the novel coronavirus cases in Sri Lanka reached 143 with 21 fresh cases being reported on Tuesday, the highest single-day increase so far, health officials said on Wednesday, underlining that next two weeks will be crucial. The island nation has recorded only one death due to the novel coronavirus. A 65-year-old diabetic man who died on Sunday had contracted the virus from Lanka’s second COVID 19 patient who was in contact with a group of Italian tourists. Another 21 COVID-19 infected patients were reported in Sri Lanka on Tuesday, the highest single-day increase so far, increasing the total number of cases to 143, the Health Ministry said on Wednesday.
Why several countries are releasing their prisoners amid COVID-19
Around the world, in fact, plans are being made to release prisoners to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus. Prison authorities have been facing difficulties in keeping the virus from spreading behind bars. With prison visits and other services curtailed, several countries have witnessed violent prison riots. This month, 25 such clashes took place in prisons in Italy, leading to several deaths.
Europe coronavirus death toll tops 30,000
The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 30,000 people in Europe, more than three-quarters of the deaths registered in Italy and Spain, according to an AFP tally. A total of 30,063 deaths have been recorded in Europe out of 458,601 cases, making it the continent hit hardest by COVID-19.
Pressure mounts on Angela Merkel to save Europe from COVID-19
After more than 14 years in office, Merkel has returned to the front line of crisis fighting and is in her element again. At 65, she’s more in demand than ever as Europe’s most powerful leader steers her country through what she describes as the greatest challenge since the war. Yet history may judge her less on her custody of the region’s powerhouse economy than on what she does to help its weakest members through a public-health disaster unparalleled in peacetime.
The most deaths were recorded in Italy, with 12,428 fatalities, followed by Spain with 8,189 and France with 3,523. The latest European figures come just a few hours after the United States announced its death toll had risen to 4,076, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. That is more than twice the 2,010 recorded late Saturday and higher than the death toll in China, where the disease first emerged late last year.
Iraq extends curfew
Iraq has extended a nationwide curfew until April 19 amid a rising rate of confirmed COVID-19 cases as the country improves testing capabilities. Under the curfew, first imposed on March 17, all but essential businesses have been shuttered and inbound and outbound flights suspended in Baghdad and local airports across the country.
Twice a day clarion calls by Iraqi authorities instruct citizens to stay at home. Iraq is seeing a gradual increase in confirmed coronavirus cases as testing capabilities improve. By Tuesday, at least 50 people had died among 694 cases, according to a statement from the Health Ministry.
Israel converts missile-production facility into production of breathing machines
Israel’s Defense Ministry says it has converted a missile-production facility into an assembly line producing breathing machines to help the country confront the coronavirus pandemic. The ministry announced Tuesday that the facility, operating at a factory belonging to state-owned Israel Aerospace Industries, produced its first 30 ventilators. Israel Aerospace said it built the production line in several days with Inovytec, an Israeli maker of medical equipment. Israel Aerospace says it expects the line to make hundreds of machines per week.
The facility is normally used to produce the U.S.-Israeli “Arrow” missile defense system, satellites and the “Beresheet” unmanned spacecraft that attempted a lunar landing last year. “Turning a missile production line into a ventilator assembly plant is a very complex task,” said Dr. Dani Gold, the ministry official leading the effort. Israel has reported 5,300 cases of coronavirus. Twenty people have died.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines