Coronavirus Live Updates: ‘Now Is the Time to Act,’ W.H.O. Chief Warns

The world’s leading health official implored international leaders to unleash the full power of their governments to combat the new coronavirus outbreak.

“This is not a drill,” said Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director general of the World Health Organization. “This is not a time for excuses. This is a time for pulling out all the stops.”

But around the world, as the number of cases neared 100,000, governments have displayed signs of paralysis, obfuscation and a desire to protect their own interests, even as death tolls passed 3,200 and global capitals were so threatened by infection that politicians and health officials tested positive for the illness.

In the United States, a survey of nurses found that only 29 percent had a plan to isolate potentially infected patients. Across the nation, as the number of new cases passed 200, public health labs anxiously awaited diagnostic kits, which will allow for a fuller sense of the scale of the crisis.

But in communities where local transmission is already occurring — like the area near Seattle where 10 residents of one nursing home died — the race to try and halt the virus’s further spread was already upending daily life as schools were closed and public events canceled.

Americans struggled to make sense of conflicting information from President Trump and members of his own cabinet. Vice President Mike Pence, who previously vowed that “any American could be tested,” conceded on Thursday that “we don’t have enough tests today to meet what we anticipate will be the demand going forward.”

Dr. Tedros warned that time to contain the virus was running out.

“Now is the time to act,” he said. Still, some political leaders around the world seemed more interested in pointing fingers at each other and complaining about tit-for-tat travel restrictions. Japanese citizens have been outraged by the hands-off approach of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as cases have continued to climb. Lending more outrage, testing has proceeded slowly, leaving many fearful that many infections are going undetected.

In the center of the outbreak in China, residents of Wuhan who have been confined to their homes for weeks heckled the visiting vice prime minister Thursday, with some shouting from their windows: “Fake! Everything is fake!”

An older woman without any known contact with coronavirus patients became the first Briton to die from the new coronavirus, the British government said on Thursday. She learned she was infected after the health service expanded its testing to include seriously ill patients with respiratory problems.

That she contracted the virus without traveling or socializing with known patients added to fears that the virus was spreading undetected in Britain, where a severe shortage of intensive care beds would sap the health service’s ability to treat a deluge of cases like hers, doctors said.

In a series of interviews, doctors laid bare dire shortcomings in Britain’s efforts to combat the coronavirus: a dearth of ventilators, overflowing hospital wards, health workers having to buy their own face masks. An explosion of cases could mean denying care to the weakest patients to make room for stronger ones, they said.

“If we haven’t got ventilatory support to offer them, it’s going to end in death,” said Dr. George Priestley, an intensive care doctor and anesthesiologist. “I don’t want to be alarmist. I just want someone to pay attention.”

A decade of austerity-driven cuts to budget growth has starved the health service of workers and beds at the very moment Britain most needs them. The country has among the fewest hospital beds per person in Europe, according to studies, and many fewer intensive care beds per person than the United States, leaving its wards packed even before coronavirus patients arrive.

Residents in Wuhan, the Chinese city at the center of the global outbreak, shouted complaints on Thursday from their balconies at visiting government officials, the latest sign of simmering anger in the locked-down city.

The rare rebuke of high-level officials was captured on video and circulated on social and state-run media. The visiting delegation included Sun Chunlan, a vice premier who is leading the central government’s response to the outbreak.

“Everything is fake!” shouted one resident, in a video clip that was shared on social media by People’s Daily, a state-run newspaper, which covered the government’s response to the heckling.

The videos taken on Thursday did not make clear the exact reason for residents’ dissatisfaction. People’s Daily said the accusations were aimed at local neighborhood officials who had “faked” deliveries of vegetables and meat to residents. Critics were skeptical of that explanation, seeing the response as an attempt by high-level officials to deflect blame for mishandling the crisis.

Wuhan and many other cities in Hubei Province have been under strict lockdown since January. As the outbreak has escalated, residents have voiced frustration with provincial and central government officials. Unable to leave their homes, many residents have had to rely on their neighborhood committees to organize deliveries of groceries and other basic essentials — a process that has been unevenly implemented, much to the frustration of local residents.

CCTV, the state-run broadcaster, said Thursday evening that Ms. Sun had ordered local provincial and city officials to conduct an “in-depth investigation” in response to the “difficulties and problems reported by the masses at the scene.”

A member of the French Parliament was placed in intensive care after testing positive for the virus, Richard Ferrand, the president of the National Assembly, said in a statement on Thursday without identifying the lawmaker.

One employee at Parliament’s refreshment bar also tested positive for the virus, while another who works at the members’ restaurant was awaiting test results, Mr. Ferrand said.

“All lawmakers and staff have been informed of the situation this evening as well as of the action to be taken,” Mr. Ferrand said.

The announcement came as the number of cases surged across Europe and France saw its biggest one-day jump in infections. France has reported more than 420 total cases and at least seven deaths.

The disease caused by the virus has hit the highest ranks of the Iranian government. The roster of current or former senior officials sickened in the outbreak includes a vice president, the deputy health minister who had been leading the coronavirus response, and 23 members of Parliament. An adviser to Iran’s supreme leader and a diplomat have died from the virus, according to reports.

The number of confirmed cases in India rose to 31 on Friday, hours after schools were ordered closed in the capital, New Delhi, a city of 19 million.

New Delhi’s first case was recorded on Tuesday after a resident who had recently traveled to Italy returned last week. Reports that he had subsequently thrown a large birthday party for his child sparked panic.

By Thursday, the government had ordered all public and private primary schools to close until the end of the month, forcing some two million students to stay home.

The virus is forcing many Indians to miss one of the country’s most important festivals, Holi. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to Twitter this week to urge citizens to cancel their Holi gatherings and to practice social isolation more generally.

The Holi festival is celebrated across much of India. Entire neighborhoods come together to observe the festival and host large public parties, sharing food and decorating one another’s faces with colorful powders.

One family in New Delhi sent their regrets as they canceled their Holi party on Wednesday.

“Heeding health and medical counsel, with regret we have decided to call off our Holi celebrations,” the message read, before signing off, “with our best wishes for Holi and your good health.”

In neighboring Bhutan, the government announced on Friday that it was sealing its borders to all tourists for at least two week, after a visitor from India tested positive for coronavirus. The case is the first confirmed in the tiny mountain kingdom.

South Korea voiced “strong regret” on Friday over Japan’s travel restrictions and warned of tit-for-tat retaliations, as tensions over the coronavirus threatened to aggravate already-fraught ties between Washington’s two main allies in Asia.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan imposed the restrictions on all visitors from South Korea and China, including a 14-day quarantine, as part of his government’s efforts to fight the coronavirus. Japan also voided visas for 2.8 million Chinese visitors.

South Korea reported 518 new cases on Friday, bringing the total to 6,284, the largest outbreak outside China.

Although more than 90 countries have banned or restricted visitors from South Korea, Seoul became especially incensed by the move from Japan, a onetime rival.

“We cannot understand Japan’s decision to take this unfair step without consulting with us in advance,” South Korea’s National Security Council said in a statement. “Our government decided to consider countermeasures based on the principle of reciprocity.”

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said Japan’s travel restrictions were tantamount to “full entry ban on our people.”

“We demand the excessive and irrational measure to be immediately withdrawn,” he said at a government meeting on Friday.

Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday pledged the full resources of the federal government to Washington State, as the death toll in the state continued to rise.

Washington State registered its 13th fatality from the coronavirus on Thursday, driven by an outbreak at a nursing home in the Seattle suburbs, and the state’s overall number of infections rose to 75.

Eleven deaths have come at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland, which is near the nursing home.

“Washington State is on the front lines of the coronavirus,” Mr. Pence said. Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, praised Mr. Pence for his work assisting the state.

As government leaders in the region have taken escalating action to contain the crisis, public spaces have emptied out. Seattle’s notorious traffic all but vanished, and the few cars on the highways raced along unimpeded.

In the fight against the new coronavirus, China has deployed armies of medical workers, drones, draconian travel restrictions and invasive software to track the movement of its citizens.

Now a new weapon is being applied: Marxism.

In a new academic paper, two professors of Communist Party doctrine in northeast China write that “Marxist faith” is the “intrinsic force” that can defeat the virus, and that by uniting under Marxism, the Chinese people can “crush the devil epidemic.”

The paper, which surfaced online last week but has since been deleted from academic databases in China, has been widely mocked.

“Work of the great masters,” one user wrote sarcastically on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media service. Some internet users enthusiastically endorsed a call to send the authors of the paper to the front lines of the coronavirus epidemic in Wuhan as punishment.

The two authors, Liu Guojing and Liu Yawen of the Tourism College of Changchun University, could not be reached for comment.

Under China’s leader, Xi Jinping, the party has encouraged renewed devotion to the founding tenets of Communism, including Marxism. It was unclear why the paper was deleted from Chinese sites, though the authorities often move quickly to prevent criticism of the party and its ideology from spreading.

The number of confirmed cases of the new coronavirus in New York State doubled on Thursday to 22, with officials announcing two additional cases in New York City, eight new cases in Westchester County and one on Long Island.

The virus’s potential reach was underlined by a much larger number: As of Thursday morning, the city’s Department of Health was monitoring 2,773 New Yorkers currently in home isolation, most of them in self-quarantine.

Most of them had recently traveled to one of five countries where the outbreak has been most severe — China, Italy, Iran, South Korea or Japan — according to Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the city health commissioner.

At least two New Yorkers — a health care worker who has tested positive after visiting Iran and her husband, who tested negative — are under mandatory quarantine in their Manhattan home.

The eight new Westchester cases were all connected with a man from New Rochelle who is hospitalized, adding to eight that were found the day before. The two new New York City patients — a man in his 40s and a woman in her 80s — and the Long Island case, a 42-year-old man in Nassau County — were hospitalized after testing positive.

Reporting was contributed by Marc Santora, Benjamin Mueller, Russell Goldman, Amy Qin, Elaine Yu, Javier C. Hernández, Max Fisher, Ben Dooley, Mike Isaac, David Yaffe-Bellany and Karen Weise.


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *