Dire warnings amid global dearth of medical supplies
The COVID-19 pandemic marched relentlessly across the globe on Sunday, 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.
In the United States, New York City’s mayor told people at the epicenter of the US pandemic that it’s only going to get worse.
Mayor Bill de Blasio said on Sunday 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 mobilize, and had heard nothing back.
Several states have ordered residents to stay indoors. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the government was “literally scouring the globe looking for medical supplies.” Health-care workers from Oklahoma City to Minneapolis sought donations of protective equipment. Nationwide, there were 26,747 cases and 340 deaths as the US overtook Germany as the country with the fourth-highest number of cases, Johns Hopkins University noted. At least 38 people tested positive at New York City’s Rikers Island jail complex — more than half of them inmates.
Worldwide, nearly 312,000 people have been infected and over 13,400 have died. About 180 countries now have confirmed cases.
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. “We are facing the most serious crisis that the country has experienced since World War II,” Conte told Italians.
Italy announced its biggest day-to-day increase of infections, which rose to 53,000 people, with nearly 800 new deaths. As bodies piled up in Italian hospitals, morgues and churches, and as medical workers pleaded for more help, there was no sign that Italy was yet taming its arc of contagion. Italy now has 4,825 deaths, more than China.
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.
The army was building a field hospital with 5,500 beds at a convention center in Madrid, where hotels are also being turned into wards for virus patients without serious breathing problems.
Fernando Simon, director of Spain’s center for health alerts and emergencies, said that over 3,400 health workers have been infected, more than 10 percent of the total.
German Peces-Barba, a lung specialist at Fundacion Jimenez Diaz hospital in Madrid, said he expected the situation to get worse.
“We can’t just repeat the slogans that we will get through this together,” Peces-Barba said. “But from inside the hospital the situation is such that if it lasts much longer we won’t be able to resist.”
Britain’s National Health Service could be “overwhelmed” like the Italian health system in just two weeks, Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned on Sunday in the face of rising numbers of deaths.
In a statement released by his office, Johnson again urged Britons to stay at home to stop the spread of the virus. “The numbers are very stark, and they are accelerating. We are only a matter of weeks — two or three — behind Italy.
“Unless we act together, unless we make the heroic and collective national effort to slow the spread — then it is all too likely that our own NHS will be similarly overwhelmed.”
Borders kept closing and airlines kept slashing flights. Starting Monday, no passenger flights will be made to and from Russia, the national air regulator announced. An exception is made for regular flights connecting Moscow with 146 foreign capitals.
The long-haul airline Emirates said it will suspend all passenger flights beginning on Wednesday.
After recording its first two deaths, Singapore said it will fully shut its borders beginning tomorrow. 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.
Millions in India were confined to their homes on Sunday as the country went into lockdown with a one-day “self-imposed curfew.”