311,000 virus cases, 13,500 deaths

By | March 22, 2020

Italy has announced its largest day-to-day increase in infections with 53,000, while there are fears UK cases are “accelerating”and Spain has been forced to set up a temporary hospital inside a convention centre.

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Australia has recorded at least 1354 cases and seven deaths during the pandemic and dramatic lockdown measures will come into force on Monday

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The US government is set to approve a US$ 2 trillion economic package that could include cash payouts for families to cushion the economic blow of the coronavirus crisis.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin expects Congress and the White House to agree on a stimulus package that would include US$ 3,000 cheques to last through the next 10 weeks.

The package will help small businesses through the crisis and allow the Federal Reserve up to US$ 4 trillion in liquidity.

Several states have gone into a drastic lockdown with residents forced to stay indoors. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he was “scouring the globe looking for medical supplies.”

The US has recorded 26,747 cases and 340 deaths from the disease. At least 38 of those cases are in New York City’s Rikers Island jail, where former Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is to serve out his 23-year sentence.

The Chinese city of Wuhan where the global pandemic was first detected has recorded its fourth straight day with no new or suspected cases.

Wuhan must go for two weeks straight with no new cases for travel restrictions placed on the city to be lifted. Other parts of China have been gradually reopening for the first time since the outbreak began with work and social restrictions eased.

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But China is increasingly having to monitor new virus cases coming in to the country. All Beijing new arrivals must be quarantined for 14 days and pass a health inspection.

China recorded 81,397 infections from the virus earlier this year. It recorded 3,144 deaths in Hubei province, where the outbreak originated. However Chinese figures have been recently surpassed by Italy which has recorded 4,825 deaths from coronavirus.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei has refused US help to fight the coronavirus pandemic that has gripped his country, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory that the disease could have started in America.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s comments come as Iran faces crushing US sanctions blocking it from selling crude oil and accessing financial markets.

It is also battling to contain the world’s sixth largest coronavirus outbreak with more than 21,638 infections and 1,556 deaths so far.

However despite the medical risks, the 80-year-old leader brandished the same conspiracy theory Chinese officials have used about the virus – claiming it may have started in the US rather than Wuhan, China.

“I do not know how real this accusation is but when it exists, who in their right mind would trust you to bring them medication?” Khamenei said. “Possibly your medicine is a way to spread the virus more.”

He also claimed the virus “is specifically built for Iran using the genetic data of Iranians which they have obtained through different means.”

“You might send people as doctors and therapists, maybe they would want to come here and see the effect of the poison they have produced in person,” he said.

There is absolutely no proof about any of these claims and Iran’s senior leadership has been hit hard by the virus, with a number of high profile political cases.

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Around 1.5 million of the most vulnerable British people will receive a letter from their GP warning them to stay home for the next 12 weeks in order to avoid catching coronavirus.

People with conditions ranging from cancer to respiratory disease, chronic asthma and pneumonia are among those who will get a letter in the post advising them to isolate themselves for their own safety.

It comes as confirmed cases in the UK reached more than 5,018 with 233 deaths. Health experts believe more than 150,000 people could be infected and NHS staff have been moved from other jobs to critical care work. Health bosses are also looking at how to manage critical and palliative care at a time when patients are supposed to be isolated from family members.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK “numbers are stark and they are accelerating”. He fears the UK could be two or three weeks off reaching a crisis point like Italy.

He also issued a stark warning to the public on Mother’s Day, urging people not to visit their mums.

“Let’s all do everything we can to show our respect and love to those who gave us life and minimise the risk to their own lives….Let’s stay at home, protect our NHS and together we will save thousands of lives,” he said.

In London, the city worst affected, Mayor Sadiq Khan said police had been given more powers to enforce social distancing as people flocked to parks and shops.

“If it is the case that people continue to act in a way that’s leading to this disease spreading, then those sorts of things will have to be considered,” he said.

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Grim photographs show an exhibition centre in Madrid has been turned into a field hospital with 5500 beds to deal with a surge in coronavirus cases in the country.

Spain is suffering from the second largest outbreak after Italy, with intensive care units and hospitals struggling to cope with the surge in cases.

The country has recorded 28,572 infections and 1,720 deaths so far. Hotels in Madrid are also being turned into wards for patients with the most serious breathing problems.

Spain’s director of health alerts and emergencies Fernando Simon said more than 10 per cent of healthcare workers had also been infected – meaning more than 3400 people.

“This is a statistic that concerns us,” he said.

More than 500,000 face masks will be distributed to patients and 800,000 to workers in the coming days but medical experts think it will get worse before it gets better.

Dr. German Peces-Barba, a lung specialist at Fundacion Jimenez Diaz hospital in Madrid, said more than half of the 600 beds had been dedicated to treating COVID-19 patients.

“For now, the hospitals are bearing up the huge demand, but the emergency services are in bad shape.”

“We can’t just repeat the slogans that we will get through this together, which are good to boost everyone’s spirits,” 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.”

– With wires

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