Updates in Universal Coordinated Time (UTC/GMT)
01:28 New York, the epicenter of the US coronavirus outbreak, is bracing for a further surge in coronavirus cases and deaths, as the state’s health infrastructure barely held on.
The US currently has 60,000 infections and 900 people have died of the virus. Some 30,000 of those cases were in New York State, with 20,000 cases in New York City (NYC) alone. Nearly all of state’s death toll, 280 of 300, were in New York City, a highly dense area of 8.6 million people.
Federal authorities said they expected all of NYC’s more than 1,800 intensive care beds to be full by Friday, according to The New York Times. The paper quoted city officials who said that at least two city hospitals have already filled up their morgues, while the rest would likely reach capacity by the end of the week.
To cope, the construction of several temporary hospitals is planned in the NYC area and a US Navy hospital ship is being deployed. One hospital in Manhattan has already set up a makeshift morgue.
Governor Andrew Cuomo told residents that, despite the crisis, social distancing measures ”may be working.” He pointed to hospitalization rate data, which previously was doubling every two days and now appeared to be doubling every 4.7 days.
Cuomo and NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio are anxiously awaiting federal government help, but criticized the US congress relief bill, saying it did not provide enough funds for the state and city to manage the crisis.
00:46 US President Donald Trump said his team was doing a good job handling the coronavirus epidemic and insisted that some parts of the US could ‘reopen’ sooner than others.
In a heated exchange with a reporter, who asked if his decision to end lockdowns across the US was politically motivated, he said the mainstream media was actively urging lockdowns to continue so that he would not be reelected. He made the claim earlier on Twitter.
”I think there are certain people that would like it not to open so quickly, I think there are certain people that would like it to do financially poorly, because they think that would be very good as far as defeating me at the polls,” Trump said.
Trump added that without White House leadership on the issue ”you wouldn’t even have a country left.”
Vice-President Mike Pence urged Americans to follow state and local lockdown directives, as an increasing number of communities impose lockdown measures to slow the virus. Leading expert, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, warned Americans that the virus could keep returning as a ”seasonal, cyclic thing,” between October and December.
Meanwhile, the US Congress got closer to approving a $2 trillion (€1.8 trillion) relief bill for workers and businesses, with a vote expected on the bill late on Wednesday night.
00:15 Here is a roundup of the latest in Europe:
Estonia: The country’s first fatality was confirmed on Wednesday, when an 83-year-died in the capital Tallinn. Latest figures: 404 infections, 1 death, 8 recovered.
Denmark: The European Commission has approved Denmark’s €1.3 billion ($1.41 billion) scheme to alleviate economic turmoil confronting self-employed workers in the country. Approved under EU state aid rules, it will compensate up to 75% of the losses in turnover of self-employed workers for three months, with up to €3,000 per month per person. Latest figures: 1,862 infections, 34 deaths, 41 recovered.
Finland: The prime minister has announced new restrictions banning travel between the Uusimaa region, which includes the capital Helsinki, and the rest of the country. The measures will go into effect on Friday and last three weeks, though exceptions will be made for essential travel. An estimated two-thirds of Finland’s coronavirus cases are in Uusimaa. Latest figures: 880 infections, 3 deaths, 10 recovered.
France: Paris’ Orly airport will close on March 31 until further notice, while the metro and rail services in the French capital and surrounding suburbs will be reduced to minimum capacity as the nationwide lockdown continues. President Emmanuel Macron announced that troops will be deployed to overseas territories to tackle COVID-19. All French forces in Iraq will also be withdrawn and sent to combat coronavirus at home. Latest figures: 25,600 infections, 1,333 deaths, 3,907 recovered
Italy: The infection rate has slowed for the fourth day in a row, as the country’s tough lockdown measures remain in effect. Italy has more deaths than any other country. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte pledged at least €25 billion ($27.17 billion) toward a second stimulus package. Latest figures: 74,386 infections, 7,503 deaths, 9,362 recovered
Russia: The first fatalities due to coronavirus have been confirmed by authorities, which said the deaths were two elderly people who had underlying health conditions. Vladimir Putin has postponed the 22 April nationwide referendum on a constitutional reform that would pave the way for the Russian leader to stay in power until 2036. Latest figures: 658 infections, 3 deaths, 29 recovered
Slovakia: Parliament has passed a controversial law that allows the state to access the mobile phone location data of residents who are infected with COVID-19, and track their movements while under quarantine. Slovakia’s government said the data will only be available to the state health authority and that the measures will last until December 31. Latest figures: 216 infections, 0 deaths, 7 recovered.
Spain: The death toll in the country has surpassed China, according to figures released by authorities. Spain is second only to Italy as the country with the most fatalities attributed to the novel coronavirus. Latest figures: 49,515 infections, 3,647 deaths, 5,367 recovered
UK: Heir to the British throne Charles, Prince of Wales, has tested positive for COVID-19. The palace said he was showing “mild symptoms.” Latest figures: 9,640 infections, 466 deaths, 140 recovered