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20 major world nations need a ‘wartime’ plan, says UN chief

Updated March 24, 2020 - 11:47 am

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is urging leaders of the world’s 20 major industrialized nations to adopt a “wartime” plan including a stimulus package “in the trillions of dollars.” The plan would be for businesses, workers and households in developing countries trying to tackle the coronavirus pandemic.

Guterres says in a letter to the Group of 20 leaders that they account for 85% of the world’s gross domestic product and have “a direct interest and critical role to play in helping developing countries cope with the crisis.”

The U.N. chief says, “Anything short of this commitment would lead to a pandemic of apocalyptic proportions affecting us all.”

The secretary-general also urged “a clear repudiation of protectionism.”

Cuomo says NY situation dire

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo sounded his most dire warning yet about the coronavirus pandemic, saying the infection rate in New York is accelerating and the state could be as close as two weeks away from a crisis that projects 40,000 people in intensive care.

Such a surge would overwhelm hospitals, which now have just 3,000 intensive care unit beds statewide.

Cuomo says the rate of new infections is doubling about every three days. While officials once thought the peak in New York would come in early May, they now say it could come in two to three weeks.

“We are not slowing it. And it is accelerating on its own,” he said during a briefing in New York City. “One of the forecasters said we were looking at a freight train coming across the country. We’re now looking at a bullet train.”

There were nearly 26,000 positive cases in New York state with 210 deaths, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University.

India will lockdown 1.3B people

India will begin the world’s largest lockdown.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced it in a TV address Tuesday night, warning that anyone going outside risked inviting the coronavirus inside their homes. He pledged $2 billion to bolster the country’s beleaguered health care system.

“To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” said Modi, adding that if the country failed to manage the next 21 days, it could be set back by 21 years.

India’s stay-at-home order puts nearly one-fifth of the world’s population under lockdown.

Indian health officials have reported 469 active cases of COVID-19 and 10 deaths. Officials have repeatedly insisted there is no evidence yet of communal spread but have conducted relatively few tests for the disease.

Despite 3-week lockdown, Italy cases soar

Three weeks into national lockdown, Italy’s daily bulletin about its COVID-19 outbreak added thousands more cases, pushing the nation’s overall total to more than 69,000.

Civil Protection authorities say there were 743 more deaths of infected persons in a 24-hour period, adding to Italy’s overall death toll that is the world’s highest. After two straight days of day-to-day increases in new cases that had seen lower numbers, authorities on Tuesday said there were 5,249 new cases.

A day earlier, new cases in a 24-hour period had totaled some 460 fewer. For two days running, the percentage of day-to-day increase in case load stands at 8%. Health authorities have cautioned that it’s too soon to say if Italy is about to see a peak in the outbreak. The country now has at least 6,820 deaths.

Brits ponder support package

Britain’s Treasury chief says a financial support package is being considered to help the 5 million self-employed during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rishi Sunak told lawmakers the Treasury has been looking at this issue “in intense detail.” No timetable was offered.

Last week, Sunak said the government would pay four-fifths of the wages of workers if companies kept them on their payroll, up to 2,500 pounds ($2,950) a month.

With the government effectively closing down large chunks of the economy, many self-employed people face financial ruin — electricians, gym instructors and make-up artists cannot ply their trade over coming weeks.

Sunak said the government is “determined to find a way to support them” and make it “fair to the vast majority of the British workforce.”

Sunak said it’s more difficult to design a plan for the self-employed, largely because they don’t pay tax the same way as salaried workers.

Mexico urges no business travel

Mexican health officials called on all businesses and organizations to suspend most work that requires travel.

Deputy health secretary Hugo López-Gatell said at a news conference hosted by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador that work requiring people to travel between home and work sites or to public spaces must stop.

The measure, which could bring much of the country’s economic activity to a halt, was included in a list of measures the government has already implemented. There was no discussion of how it would be enforced or whether there would be penalties.

Many companies have already implemented plans to have employees working from home, but most businesses remain open, including restaurants and gyms.

López-Gatell called on employers to implement plans to keep working. “Institutions, private organizations can’t stop because we all depend on them,” he said.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador called on business owners not to fire workers. Some Mexicans have criticized the government for not implementing stricter controls earlier.

Putin visits virus hospital

Russian President Vladimir Putin visited a Moscow hospital for coronavirus patients and wore a protective suit.

During a visit to the Kommunarka hospital on the outskirts of Moscow, Putin praised its doctors for high professionalism, saying they were working “like clockwork.”

After a meeting with the hospital’s chief doctor, Putin donned a yellow hazmat suit with a mask and went into the area where patients were treated.

Russia has registered 495 cases of the coronavirus and reported no deaths, which contrasts with the quick spread of contagion in Europe. Some experts say the low numbers could be attributed to a relatively slow pace of screening. Until recently, just one lab in Novosibirsk was analyzing tests from all over Russia and authorities have moved to open new labs and increase the number of tests.

Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin reported to Putin the number of coronavirus tests performed in the capital will increase from about 3,000 a day to 13,000 later this week. Sobyanin says the situation could quickly exacerbate.

Dutch deaths swell

THE HAGUE, Netherlands — The Dutch public health institute has reported 63 more deaths from the coronavirus and another 811 positive tests, the biggest daily increases in the Netherlands so far.

The national death toll in the outbreak stands at 276 and the total number of confirmed infections has risen to 5,560.

The institute says any effect of restrictions imposed by the government intended to slow the spread of the virus likely won’t be seen before the end of the week.

The Dutch government tightened its coronavirus measures Monday night, including banning all gatherings, events and meetings until June 1 and urging people to stay home. It is giving local mayors beefed-up powers to enforce the restrictions.

Romania moves toward stay at home

Romania’s president says the country will upgrade a nighttime curfew and make it mandatory for Romanians to stay home all day with a few exceptions.

President Klaus Iohannis says only people going to work, the pharmacy or food store for “essential shopping” will be allowed out.

Iohannis says the new restrictions were needed to slow the spread of the coronavirus infections.

People leaving their homes will have to show authorities proof from employers stating they cannot work from home or “statements of personal responsibility” justifying their movements. Iohannis says the army will support the police in enforcing the measure.

People over 65 are banned from leaving their homes, while people in quarantine will be equipped with electronic monitoring devices.

Romania has 762 confirmed cases of people infected with the coronavirus. So far, eight deaths have been linked to COVID-19.

Detroit police officer dies from virus

A member of the Detroit Police Department has died from the coronavirus.

The department made the announcement Tuesday, a day after Gov. Gretchen Whitmer told Michigan residents to stay at home to stem the virus’ spread. Detroit police Chief James Craig was scheduled to release details of that person’s death, including the staffer’s department role and age, at a news conference.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan has said 282 police officers were off work awaiting test results or self-quarantining, although 152 will return by the end of the week. The department has about 2,200 officers, according to its website.

Poland tightens travel

Poland is tightening restrictions on movement of individuals until April 11, allowing them only to travel to work, if work from home is not possible, along with shopping and pharmacy visits or brief walks while keeping a distance from others.

Participation in any social gatherings will be punished with fines up to 5,000 zlotys ($1,200; 1,000 euros.) Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki says it was because there was still an increase in new cases.

He says the new steps are intended to allow the Poles to return to work and relatively normal life in mid-April. The government says presidential elections will be held as planned on May 10 and key school exams and A-level tests will be taken in late April and May.

The nation of 38 million has registered 800 cases of COVID-19. Nine people have died.

Germany taking patients from Italy

Germany’s hardest-hit state of North Rhine-Westphalia will take in 10 COVID-19 patients from Italy, which has been struggling to treat all those sickened by the virus.

The move, announced by governor Armin Laschet, follows a decision by Germany’s eastern state Saxony to treat eight patients from Italy. Three German states bordering France have also begun taking in French patients in small numbers.

Laschet says the patients would be airlifted to Germany by the Italian air force in the coming days. He told lawmakers in the regional parliament that “It’s only a small drop. But we want to send a signal: you’re not alone.”

North Rhine-Westphalia, with a population of almost 18 million, has registered 8,745 cases of COVID-19 and 45 deaths — about a third of Germany’s total.

Scarce medical supplies

As health care workers worked around the clock, they also struggled with scarce supplies.

“All over the country, you see examples of workers inventing homemade suits using plastics,” said Olga Mediano, a lung specialist at a hospital in Guadalajara, a city east of Madrid. “The protective suits are fundamental because without health workers we won’t be able to do anything.”

More than 387,000 people worldwide have been infected by the new coronavirus and more than 16,700 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever or coughing. But for some older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. More than 101,000 people have recovered, including more than 60,000 in China.

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