US nears China’s virus death toll as New York calls for help

An elderly man is transported from Lenox Health Medical Pavilion to an ambulance on March 29, 2020 in New York City (AFP Photo/Kena Betancur)

A mounting death toll from the coronavirus outbreak has the US poised to overtake China’s total of 3,300 deaths.

Hard-hit Italy and Spain have already overtaken China and account for more than half of nearly 38,000 Covid-19 deaths worldwide, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

But the World Health Organisation (WHO) warned on Tuesday that while attention has shifted to epicentres in western Europe and North America, the pandemic is far from over in Asia.

“This is going to be a long-term battle and we cannot let down our guard,” said Dr Takeshi Kasai, the WHO regional director for the Western Pacific.

“We need every country to keep responding according to their local situation.”

In Japan, the countdown clocks were reset and ticking again for the Tokyo Olympics after organisers announced new dates following the postponement from this summer. The clocks read 479 days to go, with the games now scheduled to kick off on July 23 2021.

In New York City, governor Andrew Cuomo and health officials warned that the crisis unfolding there is just a preview of what other US communities could soon face.

New York State’s death toll climbed by more than 250 people in a day on Monday to more than 1,200, most of them in the city.

“We’ve lost over 1,000 New Yorkers,” Mr Cuomo said. “To me, we’re beyond staggering already.”

Mr Cuomo said up to a million more healthcare workers are needed. “Please come help us,” he urged.

Even before his appeal, close to 80,000 former nurses, doctors and other professionals were stepping up to volunteer, and a navy hospital ship had arrived with 1,000 beds to relieve pressure on overwhelmed hospitals.

News also came of the first US service member to die from the disease.

US secretary of defence Mark Esper said the death of the New Jersey Army National Guardsman strengthened the resolve to work more closely with partners to stop the spread of Covid-19.

“This is a stinging loss for our military community,” Mr Esper said.

More than 235 million people — about two of every three Americans — live in the 33 states where governors have declared statewide orders or recommendations to stay home.

“Challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days, and this is a very vital 30 days,” President Donald Trump told reporters on Monday.

“The more we dedicate ourselves today, the more quickly we will emerge on the other side of the crisis.”

In contrast, the outbreak is continuing to ease in China.

On Tuesday, officials in the world’s most populous nation reported just 48 new cases, all of them brought from overseas.

More than three-quarters of a million people worldwide have become infected and over 37,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins.

Italy and Spain saw their death tolls climb by more than 800 each on Monday, but the WHO’s emergency chief said cases there are “potentially stabilising”.

At the same time, he warned against letting up on tough containment measures.

“We have to now push the virus down, and that will not happen by itself,” Michael Ryan said.

SOURCE: Associated Press

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