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China Daily Global / 2020-03 / 26 / Page001

WHO says the US could become new epicenter

China Daily Global | Updated: 2020-03-26 00:00

The White House and Senate leaders of both parties struck a major deal early on Wednesday morning over a $2 trillion package to provide a jolt to an economy struggling amid the novel coronavirus pandemic.

With cases on the rise in the United States, the World Health Organization has warned it could become the new epicenter.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell described the stimulus package as "a wartime level of investment for our nation", according to CNN.

The Senate was to vote on the historic package later on Wednesday, and the House of Representatives was expected to follow suit soon after, The Associated Press reported.

The largest economic rescue package in history would give direct payments to most Americans, expand unemployment benefits and provide a $367 billion program for small businesses to keep making payrolls while workers are forced to stay home, AP said. It is intended as a weeks-or monthslong patch for an economy spiraling into recession and a nation facing a potentially huge toll.

The US has become the first country to report more than 10,000 new cases of novel coronavirus infection for two days in a row, with its confirmed cases topping at least 55,000 as of Tuesday. That means the US ranks third worldwide in cases behind China and Italy, prompting increasing concern that it has the potential to become the next epicenter of the pandemic.

Margaret Harris, a spokeswoman for the WHO, said at a news conference on Tuesday that 85 percent of new cases worldwide since Monday were from Europe and the US. Of those, 40 percent were from the US.

"We are now seeing a very large acceleration in cases in the US. So it does have that potential (to become the new epicenter)," Harris said.

As of Wednesday, the WHO reported a total of 375,498 confirmed cases of coronavirus infections and 16,362 deaths in 195 countries and regions.

US President Donald Trump has declared major disasters for the states of New York and Washington, and said he would soon do the same for California.

Hospitals across the US are in urgent need of ventilators as the number of COVID-19 patients rapidly escalates, and doctors say they are preparing to make grim decisions for critically ill patients.

Medical-device manufacturers are racing to produce the critically needed equipment, and auto manufacturers Ford, General Motors and Tesla have said they will make ventilators. Tesla boss Elon Musk said he had bought 1,255 ventilators from China and had them shipped to Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, his office said on Wednesday.

The 71-year-old was showing mild symptoms of COVID-19 and was self-isolating at a royal estate in Scotland, his Clarence House office said.

It said his wife, Camilla, 72, has tested negative.

The UK Parliament closed on Wednesday, after emergency laws to deal with the coronavirus crisis were passed and granted royal assent, according to a BBC report that quoted several sources.

Members of Parliament will vote on whether to close Parliament later, with the plan to return on April 21.

More than 170,000 people in Britain have reportedly signed up to become volunteers to help the country's National Health Service. This comes less than a day after the UK government appealed for 250,000 "people in good health" to help the NHS cope with the coronavirus outbreak, CNBC reported.

In Italy, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced a new decree introducing fines of 400 to 3,000 euros ($430 to $3,245) for people caught violating the national lockdown rules on Tuesday.

The country reported 5,249 new cases and 743 new deaths on Tuesday. Angelo Borrelli, chief of the Civil Protection Department, said this dashed hopes that the spread of the virus was slowing after more encouraging figures the previous two days. As of Tuesday evening, the epidemic had claimed 6,820 lives and infected 69,176 people in Italy.

To help Italy contain the outbreak, the Chinese government sent a third group of medical experts, who left for Italy on Wednesday, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Wednesday.

In Asia, India's 1.3 billion people went into lockdown on Tuesday at midnight, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi announcing a "total ban" on leaving homes. Some shops were staying open, the BBC reported.

Liu Yinmeng in Los Angeles contributed to this story.

China Daily

Doctors test a hospital employee with flu-like symptoms for coronavirus in a triage tent set up for possible COVID-19 patients before they enter the main emergency area at St. Barnabas Hospital in New York City on Tuesday. MISHA FRIEDMAN/GETTY IMAGES/AFP



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