LONDON: An official of the Pakistan High Commission delivers flowers to No 10, Downing Street, the residence of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.—AFP
LONDON: An official of the Pakistan High Commission delivers flowers to No 10, Downing Street, the residence of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.—AFP

WUHAN: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson battled the coronavirus in intensive care on Tuesday as his country and New York state recorded their highest number of deaths to date in the global pandemic.

The shocking hospitalisation of a major world leader has underscored the global reach of Covid-19, which has put more than four billion people — over half of the planet -- on some form of lockdown, upended societies and battered economies worldwide.

Amid warnings that worse is yet to come, death tolls mounted in a crisis that has now claimed more than 75,500 lives out of 1.35 million confirmed cases around the world.

New York City’s death toll from the coronavirus rose past 3,200 on Tuesday, eclipsing the number killed at the World Trade Center on 9/11.

The developments came even as the crisis seemed to be easing or at least stabilising, by some measures, in New York and parts of Europe, though health officials warned people at nearly every turn not to let their guard down.

New York City’s death toll of 3,200 surpasses the figure for 9/11, which claimed 2,753 lives

After 76 days, China finally lifted the lockdown on Wuhan, the city of 11 million where the outbreak began.

At least 3,202 people have now died in New York City from Covid-19 while the deadliest terror attack on US soil killed 2,753 people in the city and 2,977 overall, when hijacked planes slammed into the Twin Towers, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field on Sept 11, 2001.

New York state recorded 731 new coronavirus deaths, its biggest one-day jump yet, for a statewide toll of nearly 5,500.

“A lot of pain again today for many New Yorkers,” he said.

Britain reported 786 new deaths and New York state saw 731 in 24 hours, after Spain, France and Italy all recorded new surges in fatalities.

New research also showed Britain’s toll on a steeper trajectory than other nations and predicted as many as 66,000 deaths there by July, far more than in hard-hit Italy, which has the highest fatalities to date.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, 55, was himself moved into intensive care when his condition worsened 10 days after his diagnosis. His spokesman said he was stable overnight and “remains in good spirits”.

But there were glimmers of hope in the daily diet of deadly statistics.

Spain said its downward trend in new infections and deaths was continuing and that increases in fatalities on Monday and Tuesday were the result of weekend deaths being tallied.

Eduardo Fernandez, a 39-year-old nurse at Madrid’s Infanta Sofia Hospital, said there had been fewer admissions in recent days.

“But we remain much above our usual capacity,” he cautioned.

“I don’t know if my colleagues who are in the eye of the storm are able to see (the decrease) because the work pressure is very high.” Iran’s parliament convened for the first time since late February as the country reported a drop in new infections for the seventh straight day.

Meanwhile, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the state appeared be nearing the peak of its pandemic, with a three-day average of hospitalisations down.

Intensive care admissions and intubations had also declined.

“We’re projecting that we’re reaching a plateau in the number of hospitalisations,” Cuomo told reporters.

He said social distancing was working, urging New Yorkers to continue to stay indoors unless absolutely necessary.

“I know it’s hard but we have to keep doing it,” Cuomo said.

The virus is stretching medical facilities to the limit and the World Health Organisation warned there was a global shortage of six million nurses.

People around the world have been forced to improvise as supplies run short, with bodies packed in cardboard coffins in Ecuador and a mosque converted into a makeshift mask factory in Iran.

Undertakers in New York are so overworked that a city official raised the possibility of carrying out temporary burials in a public park.

“Trenches will be dug for 10 caskets in a line. It will be done in a dignified, orderly and temporary manner,” tweeted Mark Levine.

Like 9/11

New York City funeral home director Pat Marmo said he was dealing with three times more bodies than normal.

“It’s almost like 9/11, going on for days and days and days,” he said.

Governments around the world are scrambling to put together rescue packages to stem the economic damage from effectively shutting down global commerce, as fears loom of a devastating recession.

The UN’s International Labour Organisation said 81 per cent of the global workforce of 3.3 billion people are now affected by “the worst global crisis since the Second World War”.

Japan, which declared a month-long state of emergency on Tuesday, has promised a $1-trillion stimulus package, a staggering 20 per cent of GDP in the world’s third-largest economy.

With the ink barely dry on a $2-trillion economic rescue package passed by Congress, US President Donald Trump said he favoured another massive spending programme, worth another roughly $2 trillion, but this time targeting infrastructure projects.

Published in Dawn, April 8th, 2020