Italy, Spain suffer record virus deaths as infection rate surges | Pakistan Today

Italy, Spain suffer record virus deaths as infection rate surges

–With more than 300,000 people infected in Europe alone, coronavirus shows few signs of slowing, and has already cast world into a recession

ROME: Italy has logged a shocking spike in its already staggering coronavirus death toll, with officials warning the peak of the crisis was still days away, as the global infection rate surges relentlessly upwards.

With more than 300,000 people infected in Europe alone, the disease shows few signs of slowing, and has already cast the world into a recession, economists say.

In the US, which now has more than 100,000 Covid-19 patients, President Donald Trump invoked wartime powers on Friday to force a private company to make medical equipment, as the country’s overburdened healthcare system struggles to cope.

“Today’s action will help ensure the quick production of ventilators that will save American lives,” Trump said as he issued the order to auto giant General Motors.

With 60 per cent of the country in lockdown, and infections skyrocketing, Trump also signed the largest stimulus package in US history, worth $2 trillion.

It came as Italy recorded almost 1,000 deaths from the virus on Friday — the worst one-day toll anywhere around the world since the pandemic began.

One coronavirus sufferer, a cardiologist from Rome who has since recovered, recalled his hellish experience at a hospital in the capital.

“The treatment for the oxygen therapy is painful, looking for the radial artery is difficult. Desperate other patients were crying out, ‘enough, enough’,” he told AFP.

In one bright spot, infection rates in Italy continued their recent downward trend. But the head of the national health institute Silvio Brusaferro said the country was not out of the woods yet, predicting “we could peak in the next few days”.

Spain’s coronavirus fatalities rose by a record 832 people overnight to 5,690 as hospitals and morgues were overwhelmed and a police chief fought back tears announcing a colleague’s death.

Second only to Italy in fatalities, Spain also saw infections rise to 72,248 on Saturday from 64,059 the day before.

Health emergency chief Fernando Simon said the epidemic appeared to be reaching its peak in some areas, but the nation was short of intensive care unit beds. “We continue to have a major problem with ICU saturation,” said Simon.

As Spain prepared to enter its third week of lockdown, an unused public building known as “the doughnut” was the latest to be turned into a makeshift morgue after a city ice rink last week, Spanish media including El Pais newspaper reported.

‘DRAMATIC SITUATION’:

Europe has suffered the brunt of the coronavirus crisis in recent weeks, with millions across the continent on lockdown and the streets of Paris, Rome and Madrid eerily empty.

In Britain, the two men leading the country’s fight against the coronavirus — Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Health Secretary Matt Hancock — both announced Friday they had tested positive for COVID-19.

“I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus,” Johnson, who had initially resisted calls for a nationwide lockdown before changing course, wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, other countries across the world were bracing for the virus’s full impact, with AFP tallies showing more than 26,000 deaths globally.

The World Health Organisation’s regional director for Africa warned the continent faced a “dramatic evolution” of the pandemic, as South Africa also began life under lockdown and reported its first virus death.

In a sign of how difficult the stay-at-home order could be to enforce, police came up against hundreds of shoppers trying to force their way into a supermarket in Johannesburg on Friday, while the streets of a nearby township buzzed with people and traffic.

However, two months of almost total isolation appeared to have paid off in China’s Wuhan, as the Chinese city of 11 million people where the virus first emerged partially reopened.

Since January, residents have been forbidden to leave, with roadblocks installed and millions subjected to dramatic restrictions on their daily life.

But on Saturday people were allowed to enter the city, and the subway network was expected to restart. Some shopping centres will open their doors next week.

YOUNGER PATIENTS:

In the United States, known infections jumped past 100,000, the world’s highest figure, with more than 1,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

In New York City, the US epicentre of the crisis, health workers battled a surging toll, including an increasing number of younger patients.

“Now it’s 50-year-olds, 40-year-olds, 30-year-olds,” said one respiratory therapist.

To ease the strain on virus-swamped emergency rooms in Los Angeles, a giant US naval hospital ship docked there to take patients with other conditions.

In New Orleans, famed for its jazz and nightlife, health experts believe the month-long Mardi Gras in February could be largely responsible for its severe outbreak.

“This is going to be the disaster that defines our generation,” said Collin Arnold, director of the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for New Orleans.

But as Europe and the United States struggle to contain the pandemic, aid groups have warned the death toll could be in the millions in low-income countries and war zones such as Syria and

Yemen, where hygiene conditions are already dire and healthcare systems are in tatters.

“Refugees, families displaced from their homes, and those living in crisis will be hit the hardest by this outbreak,” said the International Rescue Committee.

Over 80 countries have already requested emergency aid from the International Monetary Fund, IMF chief Kristalina Georgieva said on Friday, warning massive spending will be needed to help developing nations.

“It is clear that we have entered a recession” that will be worse than in 2009 following the global financial crisis, she said.



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