Spain’s hospitals at breaking point, US cities brace for onslaught

Cornelia Mascio
Marzo 31, 2020

The new infection figure is almost double China's (82,240) and fast approaching China's death toll of 3,309.

At least six of Spain's 17 regions are at their limit of ICU beds and three more were close to it, authorities said, while frantic construction of field hospitals continued.

In hard-hit Madrid, flags were hoisted at half staff for an official mourning period.

New York's governor issued an urgent appeal for medical volunteers Monday amid a "staggering" number of deaths from the coronavirus, as he and health officials warned that the crisis unfolding in New York City is just a preview of what other communities across the US could soon face.

Hard-hit Italy and Spain saw their death tolls climb by more than 800 each even as the World Health Organization's emergency chief said cases in the two countries are "potentially stabilising".

While he was being treated in Rome, three patients died in his ward. The commission also said there were just 2,161 cases across the country remaining, with 76,052 people recovered.

A total of 6,803 people have now died in the country and 80,110 have been infected. "There is no American who is immune to this virus".

Spain is toughening already tight restrictions on movement while Italy is also expected to extend a shutdown past the April 3 deadline - despite the debilitating economic impact on the most vulnerable.

Moscow went on its own lockdown on Monday as all of Russian Federation braced for sweeping nationwide restrictions.

- Bells tolled in Madrid's deserted central square and flags were lowered in a day of mourning as Spain raced to build field hospitals to treat an onslaught of patients.

"We are saving lives by staying at home, by maintaining social distance, by traveling less and by closing schools", Dr. Luca Richeldi, a lung specialist, told reporters.

"Reducing the pressure on the ICUs will be important for considering de-escalation measures", said Dr Sierra, who took over on Monday as the health emergency centre's spokesperson after its director tested positive.

Experts say the critical situations seen in hospitals in Italy and Spain will be soon heading toward the United States.

Coffins arriving from the Bergamo area, where the coronavirus infections caused many victims, are being unloaded from a military truck that transported them in the cemetery of Cinisello Balsamo, near Milan in Northern Italy.

But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause severe symptoms like pneumonia and can be fatal. There have been 2,513 deaths in the United States and 10,779 fatalities in Italy, the highest number in the world, according to Monday figures from the John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

As he announced the latest death toll, he said: "That's a lot of loss, that's a lot of pain, that's a lot of tears, that's a lot of grief that people all across this state are feeling".

Spain's total number of coronavirus cases has risen to 85,195 - up from 78,797 the day before - surpassing the total number of infections reported in epicentre China. At the peak of China's restrictions, some 700 million people were ordered to stay home, but those rules are being eased.

In Africa, impoverished Mali went ahead with a parliamentary election yesterday just hours after the country reported its first coronavirus death. Zimbabwe began a three-week lockdown Monday and more cities across the continent were shut down.

The pandemic has spurred a worldwide scramble for medical gear as doctors and nurses in some of the world's wealthiest cities struggle to dole out limited stocks of face masks and life-saving respirators.

As Trump continues to draw criticism for saying he hoped Americans would be back to work by Easter, other countries warned citizens that lockdowns will be the new normal for an indefinite period.

Japanese automaker Toyota halted production at its auto plants in Europe, but all of its factories in China resumed work Monday. Japan's benchmark fell almost 3% and other regional markets were mostly lower.

"We want to keep the engine of our economy running through this crisis", said Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Rising reported from Berlin; Isachenkov reported from Moscow.

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