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UK's Prime Minister tests positive for virus, Spain's death toll rises

8 months 9 hours 39 minutes ago Friday, March 27 2020 Mar 27, 2020 March 27, 2020 7:33 AM March 27, 2020 in News
Source: Associated Press
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for novel coronavirus. Photo: CNN

NEW YORK (AP) — British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tested positive for the coronavirus, his office said Friday, while the number of infections in the United States surged to the most in the world and Spain announced a record number of virus deaths overnight.

Johnson’s office said the prime minister was tested after showing mild symptoms for the new coronavirus and is self-isolating and continuing to lead Britain’s response to the pandemic.

“Be in no doubt that I can continue, thanks to the wizardry of modern technology, to communicate with all my top team, to lead the national fightback against coronavirus,” Johnson said in a video message, adding that he had a temperature and persistent cough.

Johnson earlier had said: ″I will go on shaking hands with everybody.”

Earlier this week Britain’s Prince Charles announced he had tested positive for the virus.

Spain’s Health Ministry reported another 7,800 infections overnight for a total of 64,059. Deaths climbed by 769 to 4,858 — the world’s second highest total after Italy’s 8,214 fatalities.

“It’s true that we have more deaths than what we saw yesterday, but it’s also true that the percentage increase today is similar to that of he past three days and it appears there is a stabilization,” said Fernando Simón, the head of Spain’s health emergency coordination center.

The situation in countries with more fragile health care systems grew more dire with Russia, Indonesia and South Africa all passing the 1,000-infection mark. India launched a massive program to help feed hungry day laborers after a lockdown of the country’s 1.3 billion people put them out of work.

The U.S. now has more than 85,000 confirmed cases, and Italy was set to pass China’s 81,782 infections later Friday. The three countries account for 46% of the world’s nearly 540,000 infections and more than half of its acknowledged virus deaths.

In Washington, the House was set to pass the sprawling $2.2 trillion measure later Friday after an extraordinary 96-0 Senate vote. President Donald Trump marveled at the unanimity and is eager to sign the package into law.

Analysts, however warned that all those infection figures could be low for reasons that varied in each nation.

“China numbers can’t be trusted because the government lies,” American political scientist Ian Bremmer, president of the Euraisa Group think-tank, said Friday in a tweet. “U.S. numbers can’t be trusted because the government can’t produce enough tests.”

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

“It’s a horrible sensation, not being able to breathe,” said Fausto Russo, a 38-year-old fitness trainer who is one of 10,000 Italians whose infection has been cured. “Imagine putting your head under water.”

Health care workers grew increasingly angry at the lack of protective equipment.

“Our emergency room was like a petri dish,” said Benny Mathew, a nurse at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center who heard Thursday he had COVID-19 and is now worried he may infect his wife and two daughters.

“I’m angry. We could have secured enough personal protective equipment months ago. It was happening in China since December,” he said. “But we thought it was never going to happen here.”

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.

The worldwide death toll climbed to over 24,000, according to Johns Hopkins University but more than 124,000 people have recovered, about half in China.

New York state, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak., reported 100 more deaths in one day, accounting for almost 30% of the 1,300 fatalities nationwide. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the number of deaths will increase soon as critically ill patients who have been on ventilators for days succumb.

“That is a situation where people just deteriorate over time,” Cuomo said.

The White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, Deborah Birx, said counties in the Midwest around Chicago and Detroit are seeing a rapid increase in cases.

On Thursday, Louisiana reported the number of known coronavirus cases in the state leapt 28% overnight, and New Orleans has begun gearing up for a possible overflow at hospitals, with plans to treat as many as 3,000 patients at the city’s convention center if necessary.

Louisiana has surpassed 2,300 people known to be infected, with 86 residents dead from the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus, according to the state health department. A 17-year-old from New Orleans was among the latest deaths, the first in the state of someone under 18, and Gov. John Bel Edwards said it shows “everyone is at risk.”

Washington, D.C., confirmed 36 new cases, raising its total to 267. The district is under a state of emergency, its major attractions like the Smithsonian museums and National Zoo closed and White House and Capitol tours cancelled. Police have blocked off streets, bridges and traffic circles to prevent crowds from coming to see Washington’s blooming cherry blossom trees.

Russian authorities ramped up testing this week after widespread criticism of insufficient screening.

The stay-home order for India’s 1.3 billion people threw out of work the backbone of the nation’s economy — rickshaw drivers, fruit peddlers, cleaners and others who buy food with their daily earnings. The government announced a $22 billion stimulus to deliver monthly rations to 800 million people.

India’s massive train system was also halted to stop the spread of the virus but that might not work. Jobless workers are now attempting to walk hundreds of miles to their home villages from India’s major cities.

In China, where the virus was first believed to have started, the National Health Commission on Friday reported 55 new cases, 54 of them imported infections. Once again, there were no new cases reported in Wuhan, the provincial capital where the coronavirus first emerged in December. China is barring most foreigners from entering.

In a phone call Friday, Chinese leader Xi Jinping told U.S. President Donald Trump that China “understands the United States’ current predicament over the COVID-19 outbreak and stands ready to provide support within its capacity.”

The two countries should “work together to boost cooperation in epidemic control and other fields, and develop a relationship of non-conflict, non-confrontation, mutual respect and win-win cooperation,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

The pandemic appears to have peaked in China, even while the government remains on guard against imported cases. Beijing is sending medical teams and equipment abroad, especially to Europe. But it has strongly protested U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s repeated references to the outbreak as the “Wuhan Flu,” saying that promotes bias against China and Chinese Americans.

Shares skidded early Friday in Europe after a mixed day in Asia, where Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 jumped while Australia’s benchmark sank 5%.

U.S. futures also were lower after major Wall Street indexes jumped more than 6% overnight, bringing the S&P 500 up 17% since Monday ahead of the expected approval of the American coronavirus relief package.

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