Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
A commuter crosses 42nd Street in front of Grand Central Terminal during morning rush hour, Monday, March 23, 2020, in New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered most New Yorkers to stay home from work to slow the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

The hunt for masks, ventilators and other medical supplies consumed the U.S. and Europe, as more than 1.5 billion people—one-fifth of the world’s population—were urged or ordered to stay home Monday to try to blunt the spread of the coronavirus.

Political paralysis stalled efforts for a quick aid package from Congress. Investor fears about the outbreak’s economic toll pushed U.S. stocks down in morning trading even after the Federal Reserve said it will buy as much government debt as necessary and lend to small and large businesses and to help them cope.

In New York, a near-lockdown took effect statewide over the weekend amid worries the city of 8.4 million could become one of the world’s biggest hot spots. Nearly 10,000 people have tested positive in the city, and almost 100 have died.

The governor announced plans to convert a huge New York City convention center into a hospital with 1,000 beds. Meanwhile, the mayor warned that the city’s hospitals are just 10 days away from shortages in “really basic supplies” needed to protect and patients alike.

“If we don’t get the equipment, we’re literally going to lose lives,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN.

The risk to doctors, nurses and others on the front lines has become plain: Italy has seen at least 18 doctors with coronavirus die. Spain reported that more than 3,900 health care workers have become infected, accounting for roughly 12% of the country’s total cases.

Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
A nurse assembles plastic-wrapped chairs in a waiting area in the central emergency room of the University Hospital in Essen, Germany, Monday, March 23, 2020. The University Hospital in Essen has specially adapted to patients who have fallen ill with the coronavirus. (Marcel Kusch/dpa via AP)

British health workers pleaded for more gear, saying they felt like “cannon fodder.” In France, doctors scrounged masks from construction workers, factory floors, an architect.

“There’s a wild race to get surgical masks,” François Blanchecott, a biologist on the front lines of testing, told France Inter radio. “We’re asking mayors’ offices, industries, any enterprises that might have a store of masks.”

Health care workers say they are being asked to reuse and ration disposable masks and gloves. A shortage of ventilators, crucial for treating serious COVID-19 cases, has also become critical, as has a lack of test kits to comply with the World Health Organization’s exhortations to test as many people as possible.

With the crisis easing in China, where it began late last year, only the area around the city of Wuhan was still considered high-risk, with people asked to stay inside.

Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
Young passengers wear face masks to protect against the coronavirus as they arrive at the Hong Kong airport, Monday, March 23, 2020. For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

In the United States, a fierce political battle over ventilators has emerged, especially after President Donald Trump told governors that they should find their own medical equipment if they think they can get it faster than the U.S. government. Alaska is expected to run out of money imminently to pay doctors, hospitals and clinics who treat Medicaid patients.

China has been the one nation to counter this trend, sending planeloads of equipment like masks, gloves and protective gear as well as doctors to countries across Europe, including hard-hit Italy, France and Spain as well as places with weaker medical systems like Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia.

“The U.S. is completely wasting the precious time that China has won for the world,” said Geng Shuang, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert, promised that are about to start pouring in and will be “clearly directed to those hot spots that need it most.”

Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
Medical staff watch people waiting in line to get a coronavirus test outside the La Timone hospital in Marseille, southern France, Monday March 23, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

Meanwhile, efforts for a quick economic relief package from Congress faltered. The U.S. Senate voted against advancing the nearly $2 trillion plan that would prop up businesses and send relief checks to American households. Democrats argued it was tilted toward corporations rather than workers and health care providers. Another vote was expected Monday.

The delay shook investors, as has the accumulation of canceled events large and small, the soaring numbers of unemployed and a widespread pullback in spending.

Worldwide, more than 350,000 people have been infected and 15,000 have died from the virus. As cases in China ebbed, the dangers to Europe and the U.S. have grown exponentially, although Germany on Monday cautiously reported some flattening of its infection curve.

After just a few weeks, the U.S. has more than 35,000 cases and more than 400 deaths. New York, California and Illinois have ordered residents to stay home unless they have essential reasons to go out.

Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
A countdown clock for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics is reflected in a puddle of water outside Tokyo Station in Tokyo, Monday, March 23, 2020. The IOC will take up to four weeks to consider postponing the Tokyo Olympics amid mounting criticism of its handling of the coronavirus crisis that now includes Canada saying it won’t send a team to the games this year and the leader of track and field, the biggest sport at the games, also calling for a delay. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

For most people, the new 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. Over 100,000 people have recovered, mostly in China.

Authorities kept up their push to get people to stay home, but some were clearly not listening.

Social media sites showed snapshots of packed London Underground trains.

British Health Secretary Matt Hancock described those ignoring the government’s social distancing recommendations as “very selfish” and warned that stricter rules might be coming soon.

“If people go within 2 meters of others who they don’t live with, then they’re helping to spread the virus,” he said. “And the consequences of that costs lives.”

Other countries, though, said the restrictions were working.

Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
French soldiers discuss inside the military field hospital built in Mulhouse, eastern France, Monday March 23, 2020. The Grand Est region is now the epicenter of the outbreak in France, which has buried the third most virus victims in Europe, after Italy and Spain. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)

After 12 days of a national lockdown in Denmark, “we have together succeeded in changing our behavior very radically,” Prime Minister Metter Fredericksen said, in extending closings until mid-April.

Italy’s infections continued to spike, hitting 59,000 cases and 5,476 deaths, and India took the extraordinary step of shutting down the nation’s rail system, which has long been the lifeblood of the country of 1.3 billion people. The arrival of the global pandemic in Syria as well as the Gaza Strip has raised concerns it could run rampant in some of the most vulnerable areas in the Mideast.

Two former passengers of the virus-infected Diamond Princess cruise ship died, bringing to 10 the number of deaths from a ship that had over 700 infections and stands as a prime example of how not to contain an outbreak.

Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
A soldier gives indications to passengers as they line up to have their travel documents checked, in Rome’s Termini main train station, Monday, March 23, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems.(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)

With weddings and other large gatherings banned in many places, an untold number of burials are going forward with nothing more than a minister, a funeral home staffer and one loved one to bear witness.

Republican Rand Paul of Kentucky became the first U.S. senator to announce he was infected, joining the likes of celebrities like opera superstar Plácido Domingo. German Chancellor Angela Merkel put herself in quarantine after a doctor who gave her a pneumonia vaccine tested positive. Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, the former presidential candidate, disclosed that her husband was infected.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged that postponing this year’s Summer Olympics could be unavoidable. Canada and Australia added to the pressure on Olympic organizers by suggesting they wouldn’t send athletes to Tokyo this summer. The International Olympic Committee said it would examine the situation over the next few weeks.

  • Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
    Members of a local residents group wear protective gear as they disinfect a local park as a precaution against the new coronavirus in Seoul, South Korea, Monday, March 23, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)
  • Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
    A woman adjusts her face mask as she stands on a virtually empty subway station in Barcelona, Spain, Monday, March 23, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)
  • Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
    A victim of the Covid-19 virus is evacuated from the Mulhouse civil hospital, eastern France, Monday March 23, 2020. The Grand Est region is now the epicenter of the outbreak in France, which has buried the third most virus victims in Europe, after Italy and Spain. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/Jean-Francois Badias)
  • Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
    Police officers check passenger’s travel documents, at Rome’s Termini main train station, Monday, March 23, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems.(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
  • Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
    A passenger carries her luggage through an almost empty Termini main train station, in Rome, Monday, March 23, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems.(AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
  • Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
    Passengers wearing masks as a precautionary measure against the new virus are seen inside a train in Jammu, India, Monday, March 23, 2020. Authorities have gradually started to shutdown much of the country of 1.3 billion people to contain the outbreak. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (AP Photo/Channi Anand)
  • Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
    A woman waits to enter a bank in the EUR neighborhood in Rome, Monday, March 23, 2020. Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte has told the nation he is tightening the lockdown to fight the rampaging spread of coronavirus, shutting down all production facilities except those that are “necessary, crucial, indispensable to guarantee” the good of the country. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness, especially in older adults and people with existing health problems. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)
  • Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
    A man jumps rope as he works out in a nearly empty square outside the European Parliament during a partial lockdown ordered by Belgium government in Brussels, Monday, March 23, 2020. For some people the COVID-19 coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, but for some it causes severe illness. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)
  • Over 1.5 billion globally asked to stay home to escape virus
    A municipality worker wearing a protective suit sprays water, backdropped by the Ottoman-era Mecidiye mosque and the “July 15th Martyrs’ bridge, formerly known as Bosporus Bridge, over the Bosporus Strait, separating Europe and Asia, in Ortakoy square in Istanbul, amid the coronavirus outbreak, Monday, March 23, 2020. The COVID-19 illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, but severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)

The central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak first emerged, said Monday it is now allowing residents limited movement as its months-long lockdown gradually eases.

Scientists in London predicted that the pandemic’s death toll could easily top 1 million people in the U.S. alone.

But Trump suggested that the remedies to fight the pandemic—including worldwide financial pain—may be more harmful than the outbreak itself and vowed to reassess government restrictions after the 15-day mark of the U.S. shutdown.

“WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” he tweeted.


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