World

US death toll eclipses China

By AAP Newswire

The US death toll from the coronavirus has climbed past 3,600, eclipsing China's official count, as hard-hit New York City rushed to bring in more medical professionals and ambulances and parked refrigerated morgue trucks on the streets to collect the dead.

The crisis hit close to home for Governor Andrew Cuomo, who reported teary-eyed that his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, was infected.

The governor pronounced the disaster unlike any other the city has weathered: "This is ongoing and the duration itself is debilitating and exhausting and depressing."

Elsewhere around the world, hard-hit Italy reported that the infection rate appears to be levelling off and new cases could start declining, but that the crisis is far from over. Spain struggled to fend off the collapse of its hospital system. Vladimir Putin's Russia moved to crack down on quarantine violations and "fake news" about the outbreak. And China edged closer to normal as stores in the epicentre city of Wuhan began reopening.

Worldwide, more than 800,000 people have been infected and over 40,000 have died, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Italy and Spain accounted for half the deaths, while the US had over 180,000 infections, with more dead than China's official toll of about 3,300.

New York was the nation's deadliest hot spot, with about 1,550 deaths statewide, most of them in New York City, which braced for things to get much worse in the coming weeks.

A 1,000-bed emergency hospital set up at the mammoth Javits Convention Center began taking non-coronavirus patients to help relieve the city's overwhelmed health system. A Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds that arrived on Monday was expected to begin accepting patients on Tuesday.

The indoor tennis centre that is the site of the US Open tournament is being turned into a hospital as well.

The city also worked to bring in 250 out-of-town ambulances and 500 paramedics to deal with a crush of emergency calls. The fire commissioner said ambulances are responding to double their normal daily total of 3,000 calls to 911. A five-day stretch last week was the busiest in the history of the city's emergency services operation.

In addition, New York authorities sought to bring on more volunteer health care professionals and hoped to have them on board by Thursday. Nearly 80,000 former nurses, doctors and others are said to be stepping forward, and the governor said officials are doing background checks for disciplinary actions and otherwise making sure they are fit for duty.

As for Chris Cuomo, the 49-year-old TV newsman tweeted that he has suffered from fever, chills and shortness of breath and will be doing his shows from his basement, where he has quarantined himself.

He said he is worried about infecting his wife and children but added: "We will all beat this by being smart and tough and united!"

"Luckily we caught it early enough," the governor said. "But it's my family, it's your family, it's all of our families. But this virus is that insidious, and we must keep that all in mind."

Figures on deaths and infections around the world are supplied by government health authorities and compiled by Johns Hopkins.