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30 March, 2020 09:51:53 AM

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Record virus deaths in Spain as world readies for long haul

AFP, Madrid
Record virus deaths in Spain as world readies for long haul

Spain broke another national record of daily coronavirus deaths yesterday as more than 40 per cent of the world's population was asked to stay at home to halt the deadly march of a disease that has claimed some 32,000 lives. A deluge of patients are filling up hospitals in Europe and the United States (US), now the focal points of a pandemic that is upending the global economy in unprecedented ways.

In the US, an about-face by President Donald Trump on quarantining New York captured the panic and confusion unfurling across many parts of the world where measures to contain the pandemic change on a daily basis.

As of Sunday, more than 3.38 billion people were asked or ordered to follow confinement measures, according to an AFP database, as the virus infects every sphere of life, wiping out millions of jobs, postponing political elections and pressing pause on the sporting scene.

Worst-hit Italy and Spain, which together account for more than half of the world's

deaths, are clinging to the hope that they are closing in on the peak of the crisis.

But even as the growth rate of infections and deaths slowed in both countries, Madrid announced a rise in its 24-hour toll for a third consecutive day on Sunday, with 838 fatalities, while Italy recorded 756.

'We are on the verge'

As President Trump continues to draw criticism for saying he hoped Americans would be back to work by Easter, other countries are warning citizens that lockdowns will be the new normal until the pandemic is brought under control.

Spain is toughening already tight restrictions on movement while Italian authorities said they would extend a shutdown past the April 3 deadline -- despite the debilitating economic impact on the most vulnerable.

Health authorities say the measures are needed to free up overstretched hospital wards.

"My ICU (intensive care unit) is completely full," said Eduardo Fernandez, a nurse at Infanta Sofia hospital in Madrid, where authorities have set-up a 5,500-bed field hospital and transformed an ice rink into a morgue.

"If it is not a complete collapse, we are on the verge," the nurse added.

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.

With New York hospital staff making desperate pleas for equipment, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Sunday his city only had enough protective gear -- but not sufficient life-saving ventilators -- for another week.

"I have nothing for my head, nothing for my shoes," said Diana Torres, who works in a rehabilitation centre in the city, the epicentre of the US outbreak with more than 670 deaths recorded.

"Everybody is scared," she said, explaining the effort it took to acquire one face shield, one N-95 respirator mask and one gown -- all of which she said she would have to reuse.

Long haul

The US is now home to the highest number of confirmed COVID-19 infections globally with more than 124,000 cases, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally, which put worldwide deaths at 32,137.

BK

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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