Global coronavirus death toll tops 13,000 as medical supplies dwindle
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Global coronavirus death toll tops 13,000 as medical supplies dwindle

More than 300,000 infections confirmed worldwide; NY governor Cuomo says government is ‘literally scouring the globe’ in hunt for hospital equipment

Coffins wait to be transported to cemetery, in the church of Serina, near Bergamo, northern Italy, March 21, 2020 (Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP)
Coffins wait to be transported to cemetery, in the church of Serina, near Bergamo, northern Italy, March 21, 2020 (Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP)

The coronavirus death toll crossed 13,000 on Sunday as the disease swept across the globe, forcing over a billion people to remain at home and stretching governments and health workers to respond to the growing crisis.

The raging pandemic has forced lockdowns in 35 countries across the globe, disrupting lives, travel and businesses as governments scramble to shut borders and unleash hundreds of billions in emergency measures to avoid a widespread virus-fueled economic meltdown.

More than 300,000 infections have been confirmed worldwide, with the situation increasingly grim in Italy where the death toll spiked to more than 4,800 — over a third of the global total — after another single-day fatality record of nearly 800.

The country’s total death toll of more than 4,825 has surpassed the number of deaths in China, where the first cases emerged late last year.

A convoy of Italian Army trucks arrives from Bergamo carrying bodies of coronavirus victims to the cemetery of Ferrara, Italy, where they will be cremated, March 21, 2020. (Massimo Paolone/LaPresse via AP)

The US and other European countries reported soaring new cases, prompting a scramble in some regions to set up additional hospital beds and replenish much-needed medical supplies

In the US, where multiple states have ordered residents to stay indoors, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the government is “literally scouring the globe looking for medical supplies.” Health care workers from Oklahoma City to Minneapolis sought donations of protective equipment. Staff at a Detroit hospital began creating homemade face masks for workers. Even rural hospitals were strained as people increasingly felt the pandemic closing in.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo tours a newly opened drive through testing center for the coronavirus on March 13, 2020, in New Rochelle, New York. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images/AFP)

In Washington, negotiators from Congress and the White House resumed top-level talks on a ballooning $1 trillion-plus economic rescue package, urged by US President Donald Trump to strike a deal to steady a nation thoroughly upended by the coronavirus pandemic. Trump continued to sound a confident tone about the nation’s ability to defeat the pandemic soon, even as health leaders nationwide acknowledged that the US is nowhere near the peak for the outbreak.

“We are going to be celebrating a great victory in the not too distant future,” he said.

The contagion is starting to be felt in US cities far from major metropolitan areas, including places that have resisted drastic shutdown measures. About 150 countries now have confirmed cases, and deaths have been reported in more than 30 American states.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia.

The vast majority of people recover from the new virus. According to the World Health Organization, people with mild illness recover in about two weeks, while those with more severe illness may take three to six weeks to recover.

City workers walk after spraying disinfectant on the streets as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, in Caracas, Venezuela, March 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

In Italy, local authorities in the hard-hit northern regions have been pleading with the national government to enact stricter measures. Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte told the nation he was tightening a lockdown and shutting down all production facilities except those providing essential goods and services. He cautioned citizens to be calm and patient, saying there is no alternative.

“Our sacrifice in staying home is minimum compared to that of other citizens trying to keep the nation well and functioning,” he said in a Facebook address.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said it was ready to fly mobile medical teams and disinfection equipment to Italy, and a plane delivered more than 100 tons of supplies from China to the Czech Republic as part of a NATO program.

Behind China and Italy, Spain now has the third-highest number of infections worldwide, followed by the US.

Spanish health authorities have acknowledged that some intensive care units in the hardest-hit areas are close to their limit. The army was building a field hospital with 5,500 beds in a convention center in Madrid, where hotels are also being turned into wards for virus patients without serious breathing problems.

Colombia reported its first death from COVID-19 on Saturday. The patient was a 58-year-old taxi driver who had driven tourists from Italy, authorities said, adding that man had previous health issues, including untreated diabetes.

President Iván Duque has prohibited all non-resident foreigners from entering the country and he has decreed a mandatory quarantine starting Tuesday. Colombia has confirmed 210 cases of the coronavirus.

Airport employees disinfect cots, as a preventive measure against the spread of the new coronavirus, to be made available for travelers whose flights are delayed or canceled, at the El Dorado International Airport, in Bogota, Colombia, March 21, 2020. (AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)

Lockdowns and curfews continue across the globe in a bid to contain the spread of infections before healthcare systems are overwhelmed. Streets, squares and highways in major cities are deserted. In the US, New Jersey and St. Louis were added to a growing list of areas where residents were ordered to stay home.

Sri Lanka police said Sunday that they detained 291 people for breaching a three-day curfew imposed Friday. Some were arrested for drinking at a playground or loitering in the streets.

The Chinese city of Wuhan — where the global pandemic was first detected and the first city to be locked down — went a fourth consecutive day on Sunday without reporting any new or suspected cases of the virus. Wuhan must go 14 straight days without a new case in order for draconian travel restrictions to be lifted, but already, a special train returned more than 1,000 car factory employees for the first time since the outbreak.

Parks and other public gathering places are reopening in China as people return to work and businesses resume. However, the country has placed increasing restrictions on those coming from overseas, who have made up the majority of its new cases in recent days. All arrivals to Beijing from abroad must be quarantine themselves for two weeks in a hotel at their own expense.

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