The grim crisis in Europe’s care homes

Deaths can be invisible, coffins are hard to hide.

Outside the Rothschild care home in Paris, a delivery van pulls up to unload its pale wooden cargo, still wrapped in factory plastic.

A delivery man tells one waiting journalist, it is “non-stop”.

The gates of the care home are firmly shut. Sixteen people have died here from suspected coronavirus, another 80 are infected.

Shuttered from the outside world

More than a third of care homes in the Paris region alone are thought to have been affected by coronavirus. But while hospital deaths are recorded in the daily toll of coronavirus, deaths in care homes are not.

Alexandre Sanner works as a doctor for another care home, in Vosges, in the east of France, where at least 20 people have died.

“There was a cluster of about fifty people with fever, followed by severe pneumonia,” he said. “At the height of the epidemic here, there must have been 25 or 30 patients on oxygen.”

Few of the cases in France’s retirement homes are ever tested for the virus, once an initial outbreak has been confirmed. But day after day, stories are emerging of double-digit death tolls inside these institutions, now virtually shuttered from the outside world.

As Italy and Spain have so far seen Europe’s biggest and deadliest outbreaks, so have the elderly in care homes borne the most painful brunt, enveloped by twin crises of mass infection and staffing shortages.

In Italy, hundreds of deaths have been reported in residential homes in Bergamo in the north, while 83 elderly residents went without food at a home for two days in the south because staff had to go into quarantine.

Alarm at runaway death rates in Spain’s care homes was first raised at Madrid’s Monte Hermoso centre, where at least 20 died from coronavirus. Military units were dispatched to care homes around the country, offering emergency assistance and disinfecting more than 1,300 centres.

The arrival of authorities often comes too late. Twenty-three people were found dead in another Madrid residence, including two of the nuns who provided care.

In a home in Alcoi, near Alicante, 26 out of 130 residents died. More than 1,600 residents of care homes died in the first four weeks of March, with more than half believed to have fallen victim to Covid-19.

Relatives express anger at the lack of information about the outbreaks, while workers explain that already insufficient staffing levels and a lack of protective clothing quickly lead to a state of collapse as carers come down with the virus and have to self-isolate.

France is launching a new app to count coronavirus cases inside care homes, and include them in its national totals. France’s most senior health official has said that numbers could spiral as a result.

The speed of this epidemic has left the government racing to catch up.

‘There’s nothing we can do’

At the beginning of March, President Emmanuel Macron visited a care home to talk about protection from the virus. He was filmed sitting at a table, surrounded by elderly residents: no face-masks; no social distancing.

A few days later, all visits to France’s retirement homes were banned. And last week, the government said all residents should be individually isolated in their rooms.

But care workers say that they are now the biggest risk to residents.

We talked to one nurse, who wanted to be known just as “Carol”. She said that some homes had been keeping masks in reserve for a coronavirus outbreak, and not giving them to staff.

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And with many staff off sick or in isolation themselves, she says, the spread of this virus is very hard to control.

“As soon as the coronavirus enters a care home, it’s all over,” she told me.

“There’s nothing we can do. Since we don’t have enough staff, it’ll be dramatic. Once the virus enters the home, there’ll be a huge number of deaths.”

‘The fight has only just begun’

Space in hospital life-support units in the Paris region is now critically low and there are shortages of some drugs.

The health minister has said France will begin mass testing of its population, and has ordered a billion face-masks to protect healthcare staff.

The prime minister Edouard Philippe has extended the national quarantine for another two weeks.

“The fight has only just begun,” he said, warning that the first half of April would be “even more difficult” than the previous 15 days.

Every night, French residents stand at their open windows to applaud the country’s medical staff.

Solidarity with doctors, nurses and care-home workers is one thing. But polls suggest that trust in the government has plummeted, even before the wave of this epidemic has peaked.

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Merkel left red faced as Italian MPs mention Nazi reparations in coronavirus support row

Angela Merkel was asked to consider the colossal debts racked up by Adolf Hitler’s evil war efforts some 81 years ago today. Rome has become infuriated with the German Chancellor after she helped block the creation of so-called “coronabonds”, a shared Eurozone debt mechanism to help prop up economies worst-affected by the global pandemic. In an open letter to the veteran leader, 12 Italian politicians, including the mayors of Venice and Bergamo, called on Mrs Merkel to reconsider her position.

“Currently the Netherlands are leading a group of countries, though, which resist this strategy, and Germany also seems to want to follow this group,” they wrote.

“The Netherlands are the one state, which has been evading taxes of the important European countries with its tax system for years. Our public budgets and the socially weak in our countries who have to pay the price for this. Those who are most affected by the crisis.

“The Dutch attitude is in every aspect an example of a lack of ethics and solidarity. But it was solidarity which was shown to you Germans after the war and until reunification by many European countries.”

The group were keen to remind Mrs Merkel that Hitler’s war machine run up debts of over €15 billion, in the Germany’s original deutsche mark currency.

They accused her of ignoring the generosity of Italy, Spain, France, Belgium, who have all voiced support for the creation of coronabonds, in halving the German debt in 1953.

“After 1945 the German debt had reached the amount of what was 29.7 billion deutsche mark,” the group wrote.

“Germany would never have been able to pay back the accumulated debt. In 1953 in London, 21 countries allowed for cutting the debt in half and the deferment of payments of the rest of the debt.

“This way German was able to avoid state bankruptcy. Italy is still proud and convinced of the correctness of the decision back then. And we repeat: with the eurobonds for the fight against coronavirus old debts are neither cancelled, nor shared.”

Despite the growing support for a joint Eurozone debt instrument, the single currency bloc’s bailout chief has warned it could take years to set up.

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Klaus Reglung, the managing director of the European Stability Mechanism, said any short-term lending programmes would have to come from existing structures.

He said if the goal is to cover short-term lending to bolster healthcare or support businesses “then I think the only way is to use existing institutions with existing instruments”.

He told the Financial Times it was possible to create a new bespoke EU institution if there were political agreement between European capitals.

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However, he added: “It would take one, two or three years, and member states have to come up with capital or guarantees, or assign future revenue.

“One cannot create bonds out of nothing.”

Eurogroup finance ministers are currently debating the plans, which are expected to be returned to leaders in the coming weeks.

Last week EU heads of state refused to sanction coronabonds and instead told officials to work on new plans to prop up the bloc’s ailing economy. 

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Coronavirus: Girl, 12, becomes youngest known person to die in Europe

A 12-year-old Belgian girl has become the youngest known person in Europe to die after contracting coronavirus.

Authorities in Belgium said the child was by far the youngest among the country’s more than 700 victims.

National crisis centre spokesman Emmanuel Andre said it is “an emotionally difficult moment, because it involves a child, and it has also upset the medical and scientific community”.

He added: “We are thinking of her family and friends. It is an event that is very rare, but one which upsets us greatly.”

It is not yet known if the girl had underlying health conditions.

Mr Andre said 98 people had died with the infection over the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 705 in a country of around 11.5 million people.

More than 12,705 cases have been confirmed so far in Belgium.

He said that Belgian authorities expect the spread of the disease to reach its peak in the next few days.

“We will arrive at a point where we’re close to saturation point at our hospitals,” he said.

Before the 12-year-old girl’s death, the youngest person in Europe to die after contracting the highly contagious respiratory infection was believed to be Vitor Godhino, a 14-year-old boy from Porto in Portugal.

In the UK, the youngest person to die was an 18-year-old who had serious underlying health issues.

On Tuesday, Spain recorded the 849 new coronavirus deaths – the highest number since the pandemic hit the southern European country.

That brings the total number of fatalities in Spain from 7,340 to 8,189 – although the percentage rise is slightly down on Monday.

The number of confirmed cases in Spain stands at 94,417 – up 9,222 from 85,195.

The new deaths in Spain take the worldwide total past 38,000, and the new cases nudge that global figure close to 800,000.

The World Health Organisation warned that while attention has shifted to epicentres in western Europe and North America, COVID-19 epidemics are “far from over” in Asia and the Pacific.

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Winnipeg’s King’s Head Pub delivering groceries during COVID-19 pandemic

After shutting off their taps and closing their doors during the COVID-19 outbreak, a longtime Exchange District drinking establishment is getting back to business with a brand new mission.

The King’s Head Pub is getting into the grocery game.

Starting Tuesday the pub will start taking orders for grocery packages through their website, with curbside delivery anywhere in Winnipeg starting Wednesday.

“We had a few conversations with our suppliers and … we decided that we would try to repackage so that we could do more of a grocery-style of service,” explained King’s Head owner, Chris Graves.

“So we’re putting it in packages for families of two or four and we’re doing that with produce as well as protein — it’s like a hamper-style type of service.”

Graves says the food, including fruit and vegetables as well as meats, will be delivered to the pub by his regular suppliers, and then his staff will re-package the items for delivery.

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The whole process will be contactless, he says, with food-grade boxes of food dropped-off and picked-up at by King’s Head staff once an order is placed by phone or online.

Both the produce and protein boxes are portioned out for between five to seven days worth of food, he added.

“It gives me an avenue of being able to keep going, and keep my staff on as well, which is the most important thing,” he said.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Coronavirus: Why are wet markets still open in China amid coronavirus crisis?

Experts warn wet markets, where animals are butchered in front of shoppers, are a “ticking time bomb” and could lead to another outbreak of a disease similar to coronavirus. The disease is thought to have first leaped to humans from a wet market in Wuhan, China, which sold animals like bats, chickens and reptiles. Another coronavirus named SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which broke out in 2002/2003 and led to the deaths of hundreds, was also believed to have originated in a wet market.

China has now banned the sale of wildlife for consumption under President Xi Jinping in a bid to protect “public health and ecological security”.

A number of countries in Asia, including Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam, have a culture whereby it’s considered normal to sell exotic animals for human consumption at wet markets.

According to The Mirror and local sources, Tomohon market in Indonesia is still operating “business as usual”, despite the local mayor calling for a ban on wild meat.

Meanwhile, in Chatuchak, Bangkok, Thailand, a range of wild animals including African wild cats, tortoises and snakes all continue to be sold despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Monkeys, dogs, cats and bats are sold at the “Extreme markets” – nicknamed for their cruelty.

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Traders often use a single knife to slaughter all the animals, regardless of contamination from blood or faeces, before selling on body parts in other countries.

In the town of Mong-La, Burma, near the Chinese border, drugs, wildlife and women are notoriously trafficked.

The town’s markets sell a selection of body parts ranging from endangered species, including tiger skins, bear paws and pangolin scales – which are considered an invaluable item in Chinese medicine.

Professor Andrew Cunningham from the Zoological Society of London has called for an international ban on wet markets and insists species which don’t usually mix in the world are much more prone to catching viruses from one another.

Both COVID-19 and SARS are understood to have originated in a bat.

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Professor Cunningham said the extreme stress the animals are put under highly increases the chances of virus shredding.

He told the Mirror: “Where live animals of different species are brought together and held in overcrowded and unhygienic conditions, the likelihood of an animal being present that carries a potentially zoonotic virus (which are passed from animal to humans) is increased.

“The highest priority for the protection of the human health is to ban wet markets.”

The trade is believed to be worth around £58billion a year and there are fears the powerful industries could influence Asian politicians to keep them open.

China has shut down around 20,000 of these sites, similar to the procedures taken after the SARS outbreak.

Steve Gagster, of Bangkok-based anti-trafficking group Freeland, said: “Wuhan is a major wake-up call – mother nature’s revenge.

“The way to prevent further outbreaks is to stop the trade. China has put in place a ban, but this needs to be permanent as it is the biggest importer of wildlife in the world.

“Most wildlife is trafficked by gangsters. This is not a regulated trade so no wonder there are infections and the viruses spreading.

“HIV, SARS and bird flue all came from animals and now this one too. These markets are ticking time bombs.”

The Vietnamese Government has ordered its officials to draft a legal ban on wildlife markets following pressure from the rest of the world.

An estimated 20,000 markets in China are believed to have been closed down.

Jerry Flocked from the Humane Society International said that “it would be a grave mistake to think that the threat is isolated to China.”

He added: “Wildlife markets across the globe, but particularly in Asia and Africa, could easily be the start of disease outbreaks in the future.”

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Growth in Australia coronavirus cases slows, but experts urge caution

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia on Tuesday reported a sustained fall in the country’s rate of new coronavirus infections but officials and experts warned against complacency, stressing the need for further strict social distancing policies.

To ensure compliance, state authorities enacted sweeping powers to impose hefty fines and potential jail terms on anybody breaching rules that include a ban on public meetings of more than just two people.

Health Minister Greg Hunt reported there were about 4,400 coronavirus cases nationally, with the rate of growth in new infections slowing to an average of 9% over the past three days from 25-30% a week ago.

Of those, 50 people were in intensive care and 20 were on ventilators, Hunt said. The death toll in a country of almost 25 million stood at 19.

Based on the completion of more than 230,000 tests, the death rate for Australian cases was below 1%, significantly under the 10% being reported by some other countries and suggesting “early promising signs of the curve flattening,” Hunt said.

“That’s an achievement to which all Australians have contributed,” he said in a televised news conference.

Countries around the world are chasing the goal of “flattening the curve”, referring to a slowdown in the anticipated first wave of infections to stop hospitals being overrun with critical patients.

Peter Collignon, an infectious diseases physician and microbiologist at Canberra Hospital, said while Australia stopped short of the full lockdown imposed by other countries, it introduced social distancing measures relatively early.

“We acted much earlier than the likes of Italy and the United States,” Collignon told Reuters. “We had much less community transmission and we still shut our borders and implemented social distancing policies such as shutting down bars and pubs, and did much more testing.”

Collignon also noted there may be an element of luck in the current trend, and backed official moves to keep social interactions to a minimum.

Several states introduced penalties on Tuesday for people flouting social distancing requirements. The repercussions differ from state to state, but include fines of up to A$11,000 ($6,779), the potential of a six-month prison term and the requirement to wear an electronic tracking device.

CURVE FLATTENING

Philip Russo, president of the Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control, said talk of curve flattening was “premature.”

“We need to have weeks on end of decreasing numbers of new cases on a daily basis,” Russo said. “What we are seeing now is quite possibly normal daily variation.”

The government’s own caution was highlighted by a deal to boost the public health system with an extra 34,000 hospital beds sourced from private hospitals, along with thousands of doctors and nurses. Australia will also take delivery of more than 5,000 ventilators at the end of April, Hunt said.

Health officials said earlier on Tuesday they wanted to increase testing, especially in places of COVID-19 clusters such as Sydney’s Bondi area, which drew attention earlier this month after people ignored social distancing rules and flocked to the beach. NSW officials said that the virus may have been transmitted in the Bondi community via an infected backpacker who was not aware they were carrying the disease.

Like all affected countries, Australia’s financial and jobs markets have been roiled by the outbreak, prompting the government to unveil several stimulus packages.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Tuesday that 113,000 businesses had registered interest in a new A$130 billion ($80 billion) six-month wage subsidy designed to stop spiralling unemployment and business closures.

The “job keeper” allowance brought the country’s coronavirus-related stimulus so far to A$320 billion, or about 15% of Australia’s gross domestic product, as economists forecast the country’s first recession in almost three decades.

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‘I’m in coronavirus lockdown with my abuser’

With much of the world on coronavirus lockdown, there are warnings that those living with domestic abuse could become hidden victims of the pandemic.

In the UK, calls to the national abuse hotline went up by 65% this weekend, according to the domestic abuse commissioner for England and Wales. Meanwhile, the UN has warned that women in poorer countries and smaller homes are likely to have fewer ways to report abuse.

The BBC has spoken to two women who are currently under lockdown with men who they say have abused them.

Geeta, India

This interview was conducted the day before India announced a 21-day complete lockdown in order to curb the spread of coronavirus.

Geeta wakes up at 5am, her husband is lying next to her on the floor. He’s snoring loudly.

The previous night he had come home drunk and upset. The coronavirus outbreak meant fewer people were using public transport, so as an autowallah, or rickshaw driver, Vijay’s income had dropped from 1,500 rupees a day (just over £16), to 700 rupees a day.

“How many days will be like this?” he’d shouted, throwing a bottle of the spirit he’d been drinking against the wall. Geeta’s children scrambled behind her for shelter.

Thankfully, Vijay climbed onto the small mattress the whole family share and fell asleep soon after his outburst.

“It took a while to calm the children,” says Geeta. “They’ve seen their father angry many times in their life but the past few weeks it has been worse. They’ve seen him throw things against the wall and pull me by the hair.”

Geeta’s husband has hit her more times than she can remember, the first time on their wedding night. She tried to leave him once, but he wouldn’t let her take the children.

They live in a low-income neighbourhood, called a mohalla, in a rural area.

On a typical day she would walk a kilometre to the nearest well to fetch water for the day. Once she had taken it home, she’d chat with neighbours waiting for the grocer to arrive with his cart of vegetables.

After buying the household food for the day, Geeta would start preparing breakfast. Her husband would leave at around 7am, returning for lunch and a nap, leaving again after the two older children returned from school.

“But things changed when the school closed on the 14th,” she says. “Then the children were home constantly and they began to irritate my husband.

“Usually he saves his anger for me, but he has begun to yell at them for minor things like leaving a cup on the floor. I then say something to divert his attention so he can be angry at me, but the more time we are together, the less I can think of to distract him.”

Geeta had a plan. While her husband was at work, and after cleaning the house, she would walk to a nondescript office building just outside the neighbourhood.

There she used to attend a secret class set up by community organisers where women learn to sew, read and write.

Geeta wants to get enough skills to be financially independent and move out with her children. At the class, she also met with counsellors who are trained to help domestic violence victims.

But India’s 21-day lockdown, which began on 24 March, has put a stop to this. The classes have ended and it’s impossible for community counsellors to visit vulnerable women.

Vimlesh Solanki, a volunteer for a Sambhali Trust, an organisation that supports women in Jodhpur, the second largest city in Rajasthan, says coronavirus has put women in danger.

“A complete lockdown means every day is completely disturbed. There are now no local grocers with carts so they need to travel further to the supermarket for food every day.

“Stressful situations like this means that there are more things that trigger their already abusive partners.”

Kai, New York, USA

Kai got out her phone and typed slowly. “Mom wants me to stay with you.” She pressed send. A reply came quickly: “That’s fine.”

Last week, the teenager stepped back inside the house she vowed she would never enter again. “The second I walked back in my brain shut down,” she says softly. “Everything turned off, every feeling.”

She had moved back in with her father, the man who she says physically and sexually abused her for years.

Two weeks ago Kai thought coronavirus was something that would blow over with a passing news cycle. Then things changed.

The staff at the shop where her mother worked were getting restless. News that the virus had crossed shores, spread to more than 170 countries and now reached New York, was making people nervous.

Working at a shop meant interacting with customers on a daily basis.

Kai’s mum and her co-workers worried about contact with the customers, but they didn’t have to worry for long. The shop announced it would close indefinitely and staff would be made redundant.

Kai’s mother lost her $15-an-hour (£12) job and was told she would only have health insurance for five days.

It began to take a toll on Kai’s mother, who had suffered from mental health challenges most of Kai’s life.

“She had an episode,” says Kai. “She shouted ‘things are crazy here, you should go to your dad’s house'”.

The words sent a cold pang of distress through Kai’s veins. She retreated to her room, hoping that if she gave her mother some time things may blow over. But when she returned downstairs her mother simply said: “Why are you still here?”

It was only a few months since Kai had started therapy for the years of physical and sexual abuse she had experienced with her father. She says he had abused her since she was a toddler. She still hadn’t confided the full extent of the abuse to her mother and sister.

It was early days, but Kai says the therapy was helping her and she felt more in control. She was feeling more hopeful for the future.

Then the shelter where she saw her therapist announced that the coronavirus outbreak meant it had to close. And last week, she moved back in with her father.

“He’s here the whole time,” she whispers, “during the day he watches TV on his computer in the living room. At night I hear him watching porn.”

She knows he’s awake when she hears him making his breakfast smoothie. “I hate it so much, it’s so loud, the sound of the blender petrifies me. It’s the start of my day, when I have to be vigilant.”

Kai hasn’t slept much since she moved back in, her door doesn’t have a lock.

There was a routine to the physical abuse, it happened only when Kai did something to upset him. So she plans to stay out of his way and now only leaves her room to run to the bathroom and make herself something to eat in the kitchen.

The last time they were stuck together the house lost power and the abuse was particularly bad.

“He acts like we are living through a strange time in history, but doesn’t mention anything about the abuse,” she says. “That makes me feel like I’m going crazy. He hasn’t done anything yet but the anticipation is killing me.”

Kai spends all day online. Recently she’s been watching YouTube video essays on movies. She enjoys watching analysis of films she’s never seen.

She hopes that her mother will let her come back soon, or the coronavirus outbreak ends and she can find somewhere else to live.

Nicole Jacobs, domestic abuse commissioner for England and Wales says police are ready to deal with a spike in domestic abuse calls.

“We’re trying to make sure people realise that the police are anticipating that domestic abuse will increase, that they’re planning for that,” she told the BBC.

“And they’re very clear that these are prioritised calls. So you can make silent 999 calls by waiting for the call handler to pick up making some kind of a cough or any sound at all, and pressing 5,5.”

She added that women with insecure immigration status should have “all barriers removed, without fear of deportation, when reporting violence at this time”, with more funding for key workers in refuges.

She also called for workers in social care and within specialist services to receive protective equipment during the virus outbreak.

‘Eyes and ears’

This is a sentiment echoed by Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, who told the BBC that there’s an urgent need for people working with vulnerable women to be given protective clothing.

“What we need is funding for field workers with PPE to reach communities and check in on vulnerable women. This needs to be a priority and there needs to be urgent global government funding for this.”

She said that unlike the US and the UK, where national abuse hotlines have seen increased calls, the opposite will likely be the case in more developing countries.

“It is impossible for women from lower socio-economic backgrounds, in several countries, to report cases of domestic violence as they are living in one or two room homes with their abusers.

“It was only in the months after the worst of the Ebola outbreak in West Africa where we learned of increases in gender-based violence at home.”

Meanwhile, Ms Jacobs says now is the time for a proactive approach to dealing with domestic abuse in the UK.

“We’ve heard about these vast amounts of people who are recruited to be NHS volunteers. We need to make sure that they have the information they need to spot domestic violence because they will be our eyes and ears out and about in the community.”

The names of the two women have been changed.

Illustrations by James Mobbs

Translations by Rohan Nair

Video edit by Yousef Eldin

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Terrifying spike in coronavirus deaths puts US on road to overtake China’s toll

The number of fatalities jumped by 540 to 3,017, while reported infections surpassed 163.000, making the US one of the worst affected areas in the world for COVID-19, according to a Reuters tally. Confirmed cases of coronavirus are expected to surge in the coming days and weeks, as the Trump administration begins to ramp up testing. The President told a White House briefing on Monday that more than one million Americans had been tested for the deadly virus.

That figure represents less than 3 percent of the population, with the US still lagging well behind counties such as Italy and South Korea.

US health officials are urging people to obey stay-at-home orders to stop the fast spread of the contagion.

Dr Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, told NBC’s Today show: “If we do things together well – almost perfectly – we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities.”

Mr Trump told reporters in the White House Rose Garden that keeping the death toll down to 100,000 would be regarded as “a very good job”.

The President backtracked on his pledge to get America working again by Easter, confirming that the lockdown would continue to at least April 30.

Meanwhile, in New York , people lined both sides of the Hudson River to cheer the arrival of the US Navy ship Comfort.

The ship is a converted oil tanker and will be used as a floating hospital for non-coronavirus patients.

It will care for those requiring surgery and intensive care, and will help to free up vital space for more COVID-19 patients in New York’s overwhelmed hospitals.

The city is also erecting a 68-bed field hospital in Central Park to help cope with the flood of new cases, evoking a wartime atmosphere.

In addition, the Javits Center, a convention hall in Manhattan, has been turned into a 1000-bed hospital.

New York accounts for almost half the number of total of deaths in the US, with 1,218 dead.

The Governor of New York state, Andrew Cuomo, told reporters at the Javits Center, that the worst of the coronavirus outbreak was yet to come, even as another 253 people succumbed to the deadly virus in the state in s 24 hour period.

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He said: “If you wait to prepare for a storm to hit you, it is too late. You have to prepare before the storm hits.

“And in this case the storm is when you hit that high point, when you hit that apex.

“How do you know when you’re going to get there? You don’t.”

Joe Biden, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, waded into the debate around the coronavirus outbreak.

He said that speed was of the essence and called on the President to move “more rapidly” in his response to the spread of the virus.

He told MSNBC on Monday: “We know from experience that speed matters.

“We know that you can’t go too fast. It’s about going too slow.”

Mr Biden urged the President to stop playing politics and get on with saving lives, sating that if he were president he would “surge” essential medical supplies to those states most in need.

The former Delaware senator said: “The president has to stop the belittling of the governors with whom he disagrees. Get the help to where it’s needed now.

“They should let Dr. Fauci and the experts run the show.”

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Canadian restaurant chain starts selling groceries amid coronavirus shutdown

As the COVID-19 pandemic hammers Canada’s restaurant industry, one Vancouver-based chain is getting creative to keep customers coming in the door.

Earls Kitchen and Bar, which operates 68 restaurants in Canada and the U.S., is now selling groceries, both for pickup or delivery.

The company is selling a variety of grocery bundles, ranging from $30 to $99, including dairy and eggs, produce, pantry items and meat.

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It is also selling a-la-carte items such as flour, coffee and toilet paper.

The restaurant is pitching the initiative as a way to avoid line-ups at grocery stores, which have taken to limiting the number of customers allowed to shop at once during the pandemic.

Restaurants across Canada have been ordered to cease dine-in service through a variety of provincial and municipal public health orders and state of emergency declarations.

Many restaurants, including Earls, have been aggressively promoting take-out options.

But the move has left many businesses with heavily reduced cash flow, while rent and fixed costs continue to pile up.

In B.C., the industry association representing restaurants estimates that 15 per cent of its membership could be forced to close for good due to the pandemic.

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US in good shape to meet virus ‘peak’ – Trump

Donald Trump has said the US will be in “very good shape” in terms of the number of ventilators by the time the coronavirus outbreak peaks.

The US president said there were now at least 10 companies making the ventilators – key equipment to treat critically ill patients.

He said more than a million Americans had been tested for the virus – more than in any other country.

The US has more than 16,000 confirmed virus cases and nearly 3,000 deaths.

New York City is the worst-hit place in America, with nearly 800 confirmed fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The US last week became the country with the most reported cases, ahead of Italy and China.

What did Trump say?

Speaking at Monday’s briefing at the White House, President Trump said: “We reached a historic milestone in our war against the coronavirus. Over one million Americans have now been tested, more than any other country by far. Not even close.”

Asked why the US remained behind countries like South Korea in terms of the testing rate per capita, Mr Trump said he should be congratulated on his administration’s progress.

But the president also warned that “challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days”.

“We’re sort of putting it all on the line, this 30 days, so important, because we have to get back.”

Mr Trump said social distancing could save more than a million American lives.

“We will have a great victory,” he said.

What’s the situation in the US?

Nationwide measures mean citizens must continue to avoid non-essential travel, going to work, and eating at restaurants or bars. Gatherings are limited to groups of under 10 people.

But stricter restrictions apply to millions in some of the worst-hit states.

On Saturday residents of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were advised not to travel elsewhere within the country for 14 days.

Non-essential gatherings in New York City are banned and most businesses are closed as the city faces more than 33,000 cases. Police can issue fines of $250-500 (£200-£400).

In California, a “shelter in place” order remains.

What about the shortage of equipment?

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Trump accused hospitals in some states of “hoarding” ventilators, face masks and other critical medical supplies.

“We do have a problem with hoarding… including ventilators. Hospitals need to release them – in some cases they have too many, they have to release medical supplies and equipment,” he said.

Hospitals “can’t hold [ventilators] if they think there might be a problem weeks down the road”, he said, alleging that some were “stocked up”.

The availability of ventilators is a major concern among health professionals as demand has surged. A number of states have warned that they will soon not have enough to treat patients suffering from Covid-19.

The virus can cause severe respiratory issues as it attacks the lungs, and ventilators help to keep patients breathing.

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