New York officials have begged for health care reinforcements, saying up to a million more workers are needed to fight coronavirus, while the World Health Organisation warned that the pandemic is far from over in Asia as the worldwide toll passed 800,000.
Spain and Italy are still struggling to avoid the collapse of their health systems, with Spain saying hospitals in at least half of its 17 regions are at or near their intensive care bed limits and about 14% of its 94,000 reported infections are medical workers.
The US is poised to overtake China’s reported virus death toll of 3,300, but experts say all numbers reported by governments and states in this pandemic are faulty in different ways, due to a lack of testing, mild cases that are missed or the determination of some governments to shape their pandemic narrative.
“This is going to be a long-term battle and we cannot let down our guard,” said Takeshi Kasai, the WHO’s regional director for the Western Pacific. “We need every country to keep responding according to their local situation.”
Italy and Spain account for more than half of nearly 38,000 Covid-19 deaths worldwide and the US has the most confirmed cases in the world at 164,610, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Italy and Spain saw their death tolls climb by more than 800 each on Monday, and Spain had another high of 849 on Tuesday, but the WHO’s emergency chief said cases there were “potentially stabilising”.
Italy’s death toll rose to nearly 11,600 — the highest in the world by far — but its rates of new infections were slowing.
In New York, the epicentre of the American outbreak, governor Andrew Cuomo and health officials warned that the crisis there is just a preview of what other US cities and towns will soon face. New York state’s death toll climbed by more than 250 people in a day to over 1,200, most of them in the city.
“We’ve lost over 1,000 New Yorkers,” Mr Cuomo said. “To me, we’re beyond staggering already.”
Even before his appeal, close to 80,000 former nurses, doctors and other professionals were stepping up to volunteer in New York, and a navy hospital ship had arrived with 1,000 beds to relieve pressure on the city’s overwhelmed hospitals.
I am asking healthcare workers across the country:— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) March 30, 2020
If things are not urgent in your own community, please come to New York.
We need relief for nurses. We need relief for doctors.
If you can, help us: https://t.co/hr8dG89QK2
We will return the favor in your hour of need.
In California, officials put out a similar call for medical volunteers as hospital cases doubled over four days and the number of patients in intensive care tripled.
Experts maintain the pandemic will be defeated only by the social distancing measures that have put billions of people on lockdown worldwide.
Chiara Lepora, who heads Doctors Without Borders’ efforts in the virus hotspot of Lodi in northern Italy, said the pandemic had revealed critical health care issues in developed countries.
“Outbreaks cannot be fought in hospitals,” she said. “Hospitals can only deal with the consequences.”
Worldwide, 800,049 people have been infected, 38,714 have died and 166,768 have recovered, according to Johns Hopkins University.
China on Tuesday reported just one new death and 48 new cases, claiming that all new cases came from overseas.
In Serbia, Hungary and other states, concerns are rising that populist leaders may use the situation as an opportunity to seize more power and silence critics.
The rights chief of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe said while she understands the need to act swiftly to protect people from the pandemic, the new states of emergency must include time limits and parliamentary oversight.
“A state of emergency — wherever it is declared and for whatever reason — must be proportionate to its aim, and only remain in place for as long as absolutely necessary,” said Ingibjorg Solrun Gisladottir.