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New York to shut down as it becomes next virus hot spot

AP  |  New York 

New York City's mayor prepared Monday to order his city behind closed doors in an attempt to slow a pandemic that has swept across the globe and threatened to make the city of 8.5 million one of the world's biggest coronavirus hot spots. Officials worldwide warned of a critical shortage of medical supplies.

Mayor Bill de Blasio also called for getting everything from masks to gowns, as well as doctors and other medical workers to New York City, and asked President Donald Trump to have the U.S. military take over the logistics of making and distributing medical supplies.

I can't be blunt enough. If the president doesn't act, people will die who could have lived otherwise, de Blasio told NBC's Meet The Press. The top infectious disease expert in the U.S. promised New York City and the other hardest-hit places that critical supplies will not run out.

The medical supplies are about to start pouring in and will be clearly directed to those hot spots that need it most, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on CBS' Face The Nation.

But Fauci and other emergency officials did not give hard figures on the number of masks or anything else on their way. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo urged federal officials to step in quickly as hard-hit states outbid each other for ever scarcer supplies, sometimes doubling or tripling prices.

In Washington, negotiators from Congress and the White House resumed top-level talks on a $1.4 trillion economic rescue package, urged by President Donald Trump to strike a deal to steady a nation upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump appeared confident about the nation's ability to defeat the pandemic soon even as health leaders acknowledged that the U.S. was nowhere near the peak of the outbreak.

Worldwide, more than 316,000 people have been infected and nearly 13,600 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. About 150 countries now have confirmed cases, and deaths have been reported in more than 30 American states.

There were more than 27,000 cases across the U.S. and 375 deaths. New York state accounted for 114 deaths, mostly in New York City, where there were more than 4,400 infections, but officials warned the concentration may be more because of increased testing.

On Sunday, New York passed Washington state, the initial epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, in the number of fatal cases. Only China, Italy and Spain have reported more COVID-19 cases than the U.S.

Cuomo spent Saturday scouting places to build makeshift hospitals and told existing hospitals to figure out ways to increase their current beds by at least 50% because predictions from health officials are COVID-19 cases needing advanced medical care will top 100,000 in New York state in the next month or so, which is more than double the current number.

Meanwhile, de Blasio urged New York City to shut down at 5 p.m. Sunday except for essential services and workers.

But with the danger an invisible virus instead of billowing smoke or blowing snow, New Yorkers were still gathering in large groups in parks, playing basketball or having block parties. Similar scenes played out around the country.

Cuomo said he was stunned and offended as he toured the city Saturday and gave local officials a day to figure out a plan whether it be closing parks, closing playgrounds or opening streets, typically teeming with traffic but now quiet, only to pedestrians.

It's insensitive. It's arrogant. It's self-destructive. It's disrespectful to other people," Cuomo said. It has to stop and it has to stop now.

Along with the staggering numbers, there were individual reminders Sunday of the reach of the virus. Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky became the first U.S. senator to announce he was infected.

Opera superstar Plcido Domingo announced he has COVID-19 and German Chancellor Angela Merkel put herself into quarantine after a doctor who gave her a vaccine tested positive.

Elsewhere in the world, the coronavirus raged on. Italy and Iran reported soaring new death tolls.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte went on live TV to announce that he was tightening the country's lockdown. Italy now has more than 59,000 cases and 5,476 deaths.

''We are facing the most serious crisis that the country has experienced since World War II,'' Conte told Italians during a broadcast at midnight.

Iran's supreme leader refused U.S. assistance Sunday to fight the virus, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory that it could be made by America.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's comments came as Iran faces crushing U.S. sanctions over its nuclear actions. Iran says it has 1,685 deaths and 21,638 confirmed cases of the virus a toll that experts from the World Health Organization say is almost certainly under-reported.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever or coughing. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. Some 93,800 people have recovered, mostly in China.

In Croatia, a strong earthquake measuring 5.3 near Zagreb caused the evacuation of hospitals and widespread damage. Health Minister Vili Beros warned people fleeing their homes to avoid congregating in public places.

Earthquakes are dangerous, but coronavirus is even more so, Beros said. Seventeen injuries but no deaths were reported.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Mon, March 23 2020. 01:04 IST
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