MADRID: Tightened lockdowns across the planet saw nearly half of humanity told to stay at home in a bid to stem the spiralling coronavirus pandemic, as Spain recorded its deadliest day on Tuesday and the United States braced for full impact of the disease after its death toll overtook that of China.
The number of deaths in the United States has now risen to 3,415, compared to China’s 3,309.
The virus has so far claimed more than 40,000 lives worldwide in a health crisis that is rapidly re-organising political power, hammering the global economy and altering the daily existence of some 3.6 billion people.
Italy has suffered the most deaths, 12,428, followed by Spain with 8,269 and then the United States.
A 12-year-old girl infected with Covid-19 died in Belgium, a rare case of a young person succumbing to the disease.
Spain, whose outbreak is the world’s second deadliest after Italy, reported another national record with 849 deaths in one day, dampening hopes it could have passed the peak of the crisis that has debilitated the country for weeks.
In battered Italy, flags flew at half-mast during a minute of silence to honour the almost 12,500 people who have perished from the virus, and the medical staff still working through nightmarish conditions.
The United States was preparing for its darkest days after known infections topped 168,000 — the highest number in the world.
In scenes previously unimaginable in peacetime, a field hospital was set to open in New York’s Central Park after a medical ship with 1,000 beds docked outside the city.
While companies and schools around the globe have shifted to teleworking and teaching over video platforms, huge swaths of the world’s workforce who cannot perform their jobs online are now lacking pay in the face of a deeply uncertain future. New York city’s food banks have seen a surge of newcomers who have lost their wages.
Three-quarters of Americans are now under some form of lockdown after Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC became the latest to join the roll call.
Elsewhere, Poland toughened restrictions on movement while Russia expanded lockdowns across its territory as infections ticked up, including that of a doctor who runs Moscow’s main coronavirus hospital.
Although the doctor had recently met President Vladimir Putin, the Kremlin said the Russian leader’s health was fine.
While the rest of the world shuts down, the ground-zero Chinese city of Wuhan has started to reawaken in recent days, giving the bereaved the first time in months to bury their dead.
Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2020