UK’s Johnson virus positive as new outbreaks appear in US

Deaths in Spain climbed past 4,900 — the world’s second-highest total after Italy.

28 March 2020 | 11:13

Source: Associated Press

  • Source: Associated Press
  • Last update: 28 March 2020 | 11:13

An elderly woman stands in a window in a poor area of Bucharest, Romania, Friday, March 27, 2020 as authorities try to limit the spread of the new coronavirus, one of the measures being forbidding people over 65 years of age to leave their homes, except for a two hour interval. (AP Photo).

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first leader of a major country to test positive for the coronavirus while disturbing new outbreaks appeared in the United States, deaths surged in Italy and Spain and the world warily trudged through the pandemic that has sickened more than a half-million people.

As different populations strive for cures, Iranian media reported nearly 300 people have been killed and more than 1,000 sickened by ingesting methanol as a purported safeguard against the disease.

More than 595,000 people have contracted the virus around the world and about 27,000 have died. While the U.S. now leads the world in reported infections, five countries exceed its roughly 1,700 deaths: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France.

Johnson announced he tested positive for the virus but was continuing to work from self-quarantine. Another casualty was a conference to review the implementation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, postponed indefinitely.

The treaty is considered the cornerstone of global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and the 191 parties hold a major conference every five years to discuss how it is working. The meeting had been scheduled to begin on April 27 at U.N. headquarters in New York.

The deaths in Iran come amid longstanding bans on drinking alcohol in the Islamic Republic that prompts drinkers to rely on bootleggers whose products aren’t always safe.

As the death toll continued to climb in France, health workers there received a huge show of gratitude — from the Eiffel Tower. “Merci,” French for ’Thank you,” and “Stay at home” in English were emblazoned in lights at night on the world-famous landmark.

In a possibly hopeful sign, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration cleared a new rapid test from Abbott Laboratories, which the company says can detect the coronavirus in about 5 minutes. Medical device maker Abbott announced the emergency clearance of its cartridge-based test Friday night, saying the test delivers a negative result in 13 minutes when the virus is not detected.

While New York remained the worst hit city in the U.S., Americans braced for worsening conditions elsewhere, with worrisome infection numbers being reported in New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit.

“We are not through this. We’re not even halfway through this,” said Joseph Kanter of the Louisiana Department of Health, which has recorded more than 2,700 cases, more than five times what it had a week ago. The United States became the first country to surpass 100,000 infections on Friday, according to a count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

New Orleans’ sprawling Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, along the Mississippi River, was being converted into a massive hospital as officials prepared for thousands more patients than they could accommodate.

Economic catastrophe had already arrived in the city, where many already live in poverty and the tourism industry has screeched to a halt.

“I’ve never been unemployed. But now, all of a sudden: Wop!” said John Moore, the musician best known as Deacon John, who has no gigs to perform with much of the city shut down. “It ain’t just me. It’s everybody.”

In New York, where there are more than 44,000 cases statewide, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 passed 6,000 on Friday, double what it had been three days earlier.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo called for 4,000 more temporary beds across New York City, where the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center has already been converted into a hospital.

The struggle to defeat the virus will take “weeks and weeks and weeks,” Cuomo told members of the National Guard working at the Javits Center.

President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act on Friday, ordering General Motors to begin manufacturing ventilators. Trump had earlier rejected Cuomo’s pleas for tens of thousands more of the machines and the governor’s calls to implement the Korean War-era production law.

Trump signed a $2.2 trillion stimulus package, after the House approved the sweeping measure by voice vote. Lawmakers in both parties lined up behind the law to send checks to millions of Americans, boost unemployment benefits, help businesses and toss a life preserver to an overwhelmed health care system.

More than 595,000 people have contracted the virus around the world and about 27,000 have died. While the U.S. now leads the world in reported infections, five countries exceed its roughly 1,700 deaths: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France.

Dr. John Brooks of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Americans remained “in the acceleration phase” of the pandemic and that all corners of the country were at risk.

“There is no geographic part of the United States that is spared from this,” he said.

In Europe, Italy recorded its single biggest 24-hour rise in deaths, with 969 more victims, to bring its total number of fatalities to 9,134. The country now has more than 86,000 cases, surpassing China to record the grim distinction of the second-most infections in the world, behind the U.S.

Italian President Sergio Mattarella called it “a sad page in our history.”

Italian epidemiologists warn that the country’s number of cases is likely much higher than reported — perhaps by five times — although two weeks into a nationwide lockdown the daily increase seems to be slowing, at least in northern Italy.

Spain, with the world’s fourth-biggest number of cases, reported another 7,800 infections for a total of more than 64,000. The country said health workers accounted for about 15 percent of its cases.

Deaths in Spain climbed past 4,900 — the world’s second-highest total after Italy.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Johns Hopkins reported more than 130,000 people have recovered, about half in China.

Stocks skidded in Europe and on Wall Street, where major indexes closed down about 3%, giving up some of the gains the market had piled up over the previous three days.

The head of the International Monetary Fund said it was clear that the global economy has now entered a recession that could be as bad or worse than the 2009 downturn.

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