Coronavirus: death toll soars as doctors are overwhelmed

Covid-19 has killed more than 13,000 people and infected at least 300,000 around the world

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Coronavirus deaths soared across the US and Europe on Sunday despite greater restrictions being imposed in cities across the world to stem the spread of the disease.

Germany and Greece were the latest to tighten restrictions on movement as the fast-spreading virus kept almost a billion people indoors and increased fears of a global recession.

Greece imposed a national lockdown and Germany banned public gatherings of more than two people.

Chancellor Angela Merkel began quarantine at home after being treated by a doctor who has since tested positive for the virus.

Covid-19 has killed more than 13,000 people and infected at least 300,000 around the world.


The disease centre is now in Europe after shifting from China where the illness first appeared late last year in the central city of Wuhan.

The US recorded more than 100 deaths in 24 hours to take its toll to 390, a running tally by Johns Hopkins University showed.

Italy’s world-topping toll from the pandemic approached 5,500 on Sunday as it reported another 651 deaths, a day after it overtook China for the highest number of fatalities, despite lockdown.

Police patrolled the deserted streets of Rome, while checks were carried out on beaches after local officials complained that people were defying bans.

In his weekly prayer, streamed online to avoid attracting crowds, Pope Francis urged all Italians to follow isolation measures.

“Let us do the things that the government asks us to do for the good of us all,” the Pope said.


Spain’s Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, said he would ask Parliament to extend a 15-day state of emergency, which bars people from leaving home unless essential, until April 11.

The country recorded almost 400 new deaths on Sunday, bringing the total to 1,720, suggesting the lockdown was failing to be effective.

Opera star Placido Domingo said he had tested positive.

Residents across France, where the death toll jumped to 562, remained at home.

A curfew was imposed in some regions and the mayor of Paris, which is under lockdown, called for even more drastic confinement.

The UK moved toward similar measures. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told 1.5 million high-risk people to stay indoors.

“We are only a matter of weeks, two or three, behind Italy,” Mr Johnson said.

Pubs, restaurants, theatres and leisure centres are already closed across the country, and the government said it could give police, public health and immigration officers extra powers to contain the outbreak.

In the US, Congress and the government were working on agreeing to twin packages to inject more than $5 trillion (Dh18.36tn) into the economy.

Several European countries have already announced their own stimulus measures to stave off economic collapse.

More than a third of Americans are under various phases of lockdown, which has been imposed in cities including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said the city was 10 days away from a widespread shortage of ventilators.

Mr de Blasio pleaded with US President Donald Trump to mobilise the military to increase production and distribution of the life-saving devices.

As the pandemic overwhelms hospitals, doctors across the world are having to quickly prioritise patients based on their chances of survival, inflicting a huge moral burden.

“We go into medicine to heal people, not to make choices about who can live,” said Philippe Devos, an anaesthetist in Liege, Belgium.

The Middle East remains on high alert, with Iran reporting 129 deaths on Sunday. It has so far refused to restrict movement.

Bahrain reported a second coronavirus death on Sunday, a citizen flown out from Iran, taking the GCC’s death toll to four.

The UAE announced 13 new cases on Saturday, plus seven recoveries. All beaches, parks and pools were closed from Sunday.

Syria announced its first case of coronavirus on Sunday, state media reported.

While the number of cases in China, which reported its first local infection in four days on Sunday, has slumped dramatically since the crisis began, there are fears in Asia of “imported” cases from hotspots such as Europe.

Thailand reported its highest daily rise in cases, taking its total to nearly 600.

Singapore, Hong Kong and Malaysia also reported a rapid rise after numbers levelled out earlier.

The normally crowded streets of New Delhi and Mumbai were mostly deserted and many shops closed during India’s one-day “self-imposed curfew”.

Australia has shut its borders to foreigners and non-residents, and Pakistan has suspended international flights.

Across Africa, where healthcare systems are limited and social distancing is difficult in crowded cities, the coronavirus has infected more than 1,200.

On Saturday El Salvador joined several Central and South American countries imposing quarantine measures, and Colombia announced its first coronavirus death.

While the over-70s and those with pre-existing medical conditions are hit hardest by the virus, the WHO has warned young people they are also vulnerable.

Accurate Covid-19 figures are difficult to obtain because many of the dead had other illnesses, and infection rates are uncertain because of low levels of testing in many countries.