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US virus deaths pass 10,000 but levelling-off hopes rise in Europe


The steep rise in coronavirus deaths in New York appears to levelling off in a possible sign that social distancing is working in the most lethal hot spot in the US, the state governor says – a trend that appears to have taken hold more convincingly in hard-hit Italy, Spain and France.


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The death toll from the coronavirus in the United States has passed the 10,000 marker, according to a tally from Johns Hopkins University.

The country has the highest confirmed positives in the world, with more than 347,003 cases of the virus and 10,335 deaths related to COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by it.

Worldwide, more than 1.2 million people have been confirmed infected and more than 70,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

US public health officials and the White House are warning the upcoming weeks will likely result in peak coronavirus outbreaks and hospitalisations in the US, with the death rate also set to sharply climb.

There are growing signs of impending shortages of medical gear and staff.

The US had just 1000 confirmed cases and about 30 deaths on March 10, with the outbreak spreading rapidly and across the country.

New York is the current epicentre while Louisiana, Michigan, Illinois and California are also hotspots, with more due to emerge.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the number of new people entering hospitals daily has dropped, as has the number of critically ill patients who require ventilators, but he warned that people must continue to abide by the social distancing and lockdown measures.

Louisiana health officials reported 68 more coronavirus-related deaths, the state’s biggest jump since the outbreak began.

A report from a federal watchdog agency said that three out of four US hospitals surveyed are already treating patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19.

Italy has reported a third day in a row with fewer patients in intensive care – but the number of deaths in one day rose, the Civil Protection Agency says.

The number of dead in 24 hours went up to 636 from 525 the previous day, with the number of infections going up 2.8 per cent to 132,547.

The number of dead overall is 16,523, the agency said on Monday.

There are 3898 patients in intensive care – 79 fewer than the previous day.

This is an important factor during the pandemic, which has left hospitals, especially in northern Italy, overwhelmed.

Experts say the number of deaths correlates to the number of infections recorded a few weeks ago.

Stocks rallied on Wall Street and around the world on the news out of the US and Europe, where deaths and new infections appeared to be slowing not only in the three hardest-hit countries but in the Netherlands and Germany as well.

But leaders echoed New York’s warning: any gains could easily be reversed if people do not continue to abide by the rules that they keep their distance from one another.

In Spain, deaths and new infections dropped again on Monday. The health ministry reported 637 new deaths, the lowest toll in 13 days, for a total of more than 13,000 dead.

New recorded infections were also the lowest in two weeks.

Emergency rooms in the hard-hit Madrid region of 6.6 million were returning almost to normal a week after scenes of patients sleeping on floors and in chairs.

Patients awaiting treatment in Madrid-area emergency departments  went down on Monday to 390 cases, one-tenth of the arrivals last week, the regional government said.

The number of people being treated for coronavirus in intensive care stabilised at about 1500 for five straight days.

Transport, Mobility and Urban Affairs Minister José Luis Ábalos said the figures show Spain is entering “a new phase of the battle”.

“This new phase does not mean we can let down our guard. We are assessing the measures that we will need to adopt,” Ábalos said.

Yet Britain’s outbreak was headed in the opposite direction, as the country reported more than 600 deaths on Sunday, surpassing Italy’s daily increase for the second day in a row.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was infected last month, was hospitalised in what his office described as a precaution because of persistent symptoms.

Lacking enough for protective gear against the virus, British doctors and nurses were wearing goggles from school science classes, holding their breath when close to patients, and repeatedly reusing single-use masks, Rinesh Parmar, head of Doctors’ Association UK, told Sky News.

Worldwide, more than 1.2 million people have been confirmed infected and more than 70,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Illness has been compounded by shocking economic pain as all the world’s largest economies have ground to a halt, with 10 million jobs lost in the US in the last two weeks alone.

Austria and the Czech Republic both began openly discussing how to ease some of the crippling restrictions. Austria’s chancellor said the plan is to let small shops and garden centres reopen next week, limiting the number of customers inside, and the rest on May 1.

The Czech government is proposing an end to the ban on travel abroad as of April 14 and the reopening of small stores.

In Asia, Japan’s prime minister said he will declare a state of emergency for Tokyo and six other prefectures as early as Tuesday.

Infections are soaring in the country that has the world’s third-largest economy and its oldest population.

Denmark will reopen daycare centres and schools for children in first to fifth grade starting on April 15 if the numbers of cases and deaths from the coronavirus remain stable,.

Denmark has reported 187 coronavirus-related deaths and was one of the first European countries to limit physical contact between citizens.

“It will probably be a bit like walking the rope. If we stand still along the way we could fall and if we go too fast it can go wrong. Therefore, we must take one cautious step at a time,”Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen said.

She urged all Danes to stick to the government’s guidelines on social distancing and hygiene.

And Norway has declared its coronavirus epidemic “under control” in Norway, with the health minister says, pointing to the low rate of transmission of the disease.

A person carrying the coronavirus in Norway contaminates now on average 0.7 other individuals, Bent Hoeie said.

The government’s goal had been to limit the spread to maximum one other person.

“Before we implemented tough restrictions, every contaminated person in Norway infected 2.5 other individuals on average,” Hoeie said.

“If this development had been allowed to continue, we would probably have been in the same situation that we have seen in some countries in Europe.”

The Norwegian government announced three weeks ago emergency shutdowns of many public and private institutions, including schools and kindergartens, sending the economy into a tailspin and triggering hundreds of thousands of lay-offs.

The government will decide on Wednesday whether to extend the restrictions beyond mid-April.

It was not immediately clear which measures could be lifted, nor when they would be.

The Norwegian Institute of Public Health (FHI) said on Monday the number of coronavirus cases in the country stood at 5755 people, with 59 deaths.

The FHI also estimated for the first time on Monday that about 14,000 people in total may be carrying the virus in Norway, or 0.26 per cent of the population.

“It is good news. It shows the restrictions have worked,” Camilla Stoltenberg, the head of the institute, told public broadcaster NRK. “(But) we don’t know which specific measures worked.”

-with AAP

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