US virus fatalities passes grim number as UK deaths spike
More than 10,000 people have died of coronavirus complications in the United States since the outbreak began in late January, John Hopkins University said on Monday (local time)
The Baltimore-based university, which has been keeping a running tally of global coronavirus numbers, said there are at least 347,003 confirmed infections in the US with 10,335 deaths.
It comes as staff at a New York morgue are using FaceTime to show coronavirus victims in body bags to loved ones.
As the lockdown in the city continues, grief-stricken families have been forced to use video call to see the bodies of their relatives for the last time, reports The Sun.
Lisa Kilfeather, who works at Long Island Jewish Medical Centre, has said that she did a FaceTime call with a woman so they could see their loved one for the last time.
She told Sky News: "I first let her see me so I could explain what she's going to see.
"It was in a body bag and you're seeing the face. So that was difficult. I'm not going to lie, I cried. It was tough."
She added that while heartbreaking, it was a small way of making the situation "a little bit easier".
Lisa continued: "If we could do at least one thing to make this hard time for them a little buy easier, that's what we're going to do, no matter how crazy our day is and how much work we have to get done."
NYC NUMBERS 'LEVELLING OFF'
But, in some good news, the steep rise in coronavirus deaths in New York appears to levelling off in a possible sign that social distancing is working in the most lethal hot spot in the US, the state governor says - a trend that appears to have taken hold more convincingly in hard-hit Italy, Spain and France.
Governor Andrew Cuomo said the number of new people entering hospitals daily has dropped, as has the number of critically ill patients who require ventilators, but he warned that people must continue to abide by the social distancing and lockdown measures.
Italy's day-to-day increase in new COVID-19 cases dipped again, for the lowest one-day increase in nearly three weeks.
The country, ravaged by the virus, also recorded a drop for the third straight day in the intensive care beds occupied by patients with coronavirus infections.
Italy still has, by far, the world's highest coronavirus death toll - almost 16,000 - but the pressure on northern Italy's intensive care units has eased so much that Lombardy is no longer airlifting patients to other regions. Nursing co-ordinator Maria Berardelli at the hard-hit Pope John XXIII hospital in Bergamo said that while the numbers of new patients had eased up a bit, hospital staff members were still pulling long and difficult shifts.
"There has been no reduction in the work," Ms Berardelli said.
"There have been fewer admissions to the emergency room, but our intensive care units are still full, so the activity hasn't been reduced." Stocks rallied on Wall Street and around the world on the news out of the US and Europe, where deaths and new infections appeared to be slowing not only in the three hardest-hit countries but in the Netherlands and Germany as well. But leaders echoed New York's warning: any gains could easily be reversed if people do not continue to abide by the rules that they keep their distance from one another.
More than 10,000 people have died of the virus in the United States, and it leads the world in confirmed infections at more than 337,000.
Louisiana health officials reported 68 more coronavirus-related deaths, the state's biggest jump since the outbreak began.
A report from a federal watchdog agency said that three out of four US hospitals surveyed are already treating patients with confirmed or suspected COVID-19. In Spain, deaths and new infections dropped again on Monday. The health ministry reported 637 new deaths, the lowest toll in 13 days, for a total of more than 13,000 dead. New recorded infections were also the lowest in two weeks. Emergency rooms in the hard-hit Madrid region of 6.6 million were returning almost to normal a week after scenes of patients sleeping on floors and in chairs.
Patients awaiting treatment in Madrid-area ERs went down on Monday to 390 cases, one-tenth of the arrivals last week, the regional government said. The number of people being treated for coronavirus in intensive care stabilised at about 1500 for five straight days.
Transport, Mobility and Urban Affairs Minister Jose Luis Abalos said the figures show Spain is entering "a new phase of the battle".
"This new phase does not mean we can let down our guard. We are assessing the measures that we will need to adopt," Mr Abalos said.
UK STILL GRIPPED BY VIRUS
Yet Britain's outbreak was headed in the opposite direction, as the country reported more deaths, surpassing Italy's daily increase for the second day in a row.
THE UK coronavirus death toll on Monday (local time) has broken the 5,000-mark after another 439 people died from the killer bug.
Positive cases have now reached 51,608 - up from 47,806 on Sunday - as Britain continues to be gripped by the deadly disease.
Lacking enough for protective gear against the virus, British doctors and nurses were wearing goggles from school science classes, holding their breath when close to patients, and repeatedly reusing single-use masks, Rinesh Parmar, head of Doctors' Association UK, told Sky News.
It comes as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained in hospital with a temperature and a cough as concerns grow over his coronavirus symptoms.
Mr Johnson took to Twitter to thank "brilliant" NHS staff and insisted he was undergoing "routine" tests.
Downing Street said Mr Johnson's admission to St Thomas' Hospital was not an emergency, but they have not denied the suggestion that Mr Johnson may have received oxygen treatment. Tuesday's cabinet meeting has been postponed.
Worldwide, more than 1.2 million people have been confirmed infected and more than 70,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University. Illness has been compounded by shocking economic pain as all the world's largest economies have ground to a halt, with 10 million jobs lost in the US in the last two weeks alone.
Austria and the Czech Republic both began openly discussing how to ease some of the crippling restrictions. Austria's chancellor said the plan is to let small shops and garden centres reopen next week, limiting the number of customers inside, and the rest on May 1.
The Czech government is proposing an end to the ban on travel abroad as of April 14 and the reopening of small stores.
In Asia, Japan's prime minister said he will declare a state of emergency for Tokyo and six other prefectures as early as Tuesday.
Infections are soaring in the country that has the world's third-largest economy and its oldest population.
AUSTRALIA'S SOCIAL-DISTANCING MEASURES 'WORKING'
It comes as Australia's social distancing policy has worked so well we may not need the 5000 extra intensive care beds governments are scrambling to establish for COVID-19, the former head of the federal health department has said.
Professor Stephen Duckett now a researcher at The Grattan Institute said instead of doubling every three to four days, Australian's infection rate was now running at just two per cent.
"At current rates of new cases, Australia's health system capacity will not be overwhelmed, even without the potential expansion of intensive care beds that state governments have announced," he said in a new online publication.
However, Australia still needs to be cautious about relaxing spatial distancing restrictions, he said.
There was a recent trend in new community transmission cases that occurred about a fortnight ago.
"We may need to wait another week or so to see whether the local infection trend starts to reduce too," he said.
"We know there is a reservoir of people in the community who have been infected - and may still be infectious - who have not been tested."
Lifting restrictions too soon will result in a second wave of infection, he said.
Australia's recent success in reducing infections has principally been driven by throttling international transmissions, he said.
Australia has around 2200 intensive care beds and at one stage it was forecast they would be overrun with COVID-19 patients by next week.
States and federal governments have cancelled non urgent elective surgery and did deals with private hospitals to bring 57,000 nurses and 30,000 of their beds into the public health system for COVID-19 patients.
They are also sourcing ventilators from operating theatres and even vets to boost capacity.
However, to date fewer than 100 of the available intensive care beds are being used by COVID-19 patients.
US TO CONDUCT BLOOD PLASMA TRIAL
US doctors are planning a clinical trial to test whether the blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients can protect uninfected people from the virus or treat the severely ill.
The US FDA last month authorised the emergency use of the plasma from recovered patients to treat COVID-19 patients and a major US blood bank is already sourcing donations.
The New York Blood Centre has put out a call for people who had a COVID-19 positive test and whose symptoms have been gone for 14 days to donate blood plasma.
Already around a dozen patients have received the treatment that showed some promise when used in China earlier this year.
When a patient contracts COVID-19 their body produces antibodies to fight off the infection and it is thought these antibodies can be transferred to those severely ill with the virus by transfusing them with the blood plasma of recovered people.
A trial being planned by researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in the US will also test whether infusing family members of a COVID-19 patients with plasma of recovered patients can prevent them getting the virus.
The effect of the treatment is not expected to be long lasting.
Australia's Red Cross is not collecting plasma from people who have had COVID-19 and in fact wants them to wait three months after the infection clears up before they give blood.
Originally published as US virus fatalities toll passes grim number as UK deaths spike