UK’s Johnson moved to intensive care as virus toll soars

Johnson was admitted to hospital 10 days ago with the disease. (AP pic)

LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was moved to intensive care Monday as his condition worsened in a battle with the coronavirus, as the death toll from the pandemic hit grim new highs in Europe and the United States.

Johnson, the most prominent victim yet of the pandemic, deputised his foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, to stand in for him, but remained conscious according to Downing Street.

The setback came as the death toll from the virus jumped in Western Europe and soared past 10,000 in the United States – taking the global toll past 73,000, out of more than 1.32 million confirmed cases.

In sombre warnings from both sides of the Atlantic, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the European Union was facing its “biggest test”, while US officials said Americans should prepare for an ordeal comparable to the 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor.

Signs of a possible turnaround in Europe – where daily virus tolls have been falling – were dampened by a surge in deaths in both France and Italy on Monday, a record 833 in France, and 636 in Italy.

“We have not reached the end of the ascent of this epidemic,” said France’s Health Minister, Olivier Veran.

Admitted to hospital 10 days ago with the disease, Britain’s 55-year-old prime minister has not been able to shake it.

Johnson was transferred into intensive care as the country’s death toll topped 5,000 – an increase of 400 in a day.

“Over the course of this afternoon, the condition of the prime minister has worsened and, on the advice of his medical team, he has been moved to the Intensive Care Unit at the hospital,” said a Downing Street statement.

Light at the end?

There was also no evident of respite in the United States, which has the world’s highest number of recorded cases.

“This is going to be the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives, quite frankly,” US Surgeon General Jerome Adams told Fox News.

“This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it’s not going to be localised.”

At the epicentre of the US outbreak, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said daily deaths had been levelling off for the past two days, suggesting the crisis may be peaking – but he extended a statewide shutdown, warning: “Now is not the time to be lax.”

In Washington, meanwhile, President Donald Trump tweeted: “Light at the end of the tunnel.”

‘Critical situation’

The pandemic has reached almost every corner of the planet, confining nearly half of humanity to their homes and turning life upside down for more than four billion people, according to an AFP tally of populations under some form of lockdown.

Battling the two-pronged health and economic crisis, Tokyo announced an imminent state of emergency and a trillion-dollar stimulus package.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the country’s hospitals face a “critical situation” with a rapid increases of new.

Italy likewise unveiled a record €400 billion stimulus to help businesses hurt by a month-long national lockdown

Speaking one day ahead of a key eurozone finance ministers’ conference on a joint economic rescue plan, Merkel called for strength.

“In my view … the European Union stands before the biggest test since its founding,” she warned.

“Everyone is just as affected as the other, and therefore, it is in everyone’s interest, and it is in Germany’s interest for Europe to emerge strong from this test,” she said.

Italy, France and Spain want to establish common debt facilities – “coronabonds” – to cushion the economic impact of the virus.

But the richer northern nations have resisted the calls – with Germany and the Netherlands in the lead – fearing their taxpayers will be left to foot the bill.

India hospital locked down

In India, the world’s second most populous country, a major private hospital in economic hub Mumbai was shut down after 26 nurses and three doctors tested positive, amid complaints from staff that they had been told to work without adequate safety gear.

India has so far recorded 4,000 coronavirus cases among a population of 1.3 billion, but experts warn true the real number is likely to be far higher, with the country carrying out little testing.

And in the latest cruise ship to be caught up in the health crisis, more than 80 passengers and crew aboard an Australian liner off South America have tested positive for the coronavirus.

Uruguay’s public health ministry said six passengers with “life-threatening” illness had been taken off the Greg Mortimer for treatment in Montevideo.

The rest of the more than 200 passengers and crew remain stranded on the vessel, which was on a voyage to Antarctica and South Georgia with Australian tour company Aurora Expeditions.

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