Washington – Officials at the epicenter of the worsening coronavirus crisis in the United States warned Sunday that their hospitals were in danger of being overwhelmed by the upsurge, as India registered a record number of new cases.
In signs of progress, Formula One returned with the season-opening Austrian Grand Prix held behind closed doors, while the Louvre museum in Paris will reopen on Monday after a 16-week shutdown.
The U.S. has struggled to respond to the devastation wrought by the virus, with its national death toll rising to near 130,000 out of 2.8 million confirmed cases, and many states hit by increasing infections after lockdowns were eased.
Hospital beds are full in parts of Texas, while calls for fresh stay-at-home orders are growing. Some mayors say their cities reopened too early, as President Donald Trump tries to downplay the disease that has gripped much of the country.
India faces similar challenges as it clocked a record daily number of cases across a vast nation where medical facilities are uneven and many COVID-19 infections are likely to be undiagnosed.
The pandemic has killed at least 531,789 people worldwide since it surfaced in China late last year, according to an AFP tally on Sunday based on official sources.
More than 11 million people have been infected in 196 countries and territories.
After the United States, Brazil is the hardest-hit country with 64,867 deaths, followed by Britain, Italy and Mexico.
In the U.S., the Fourth of July holiday weekend was overshadowed by growing evidence that its fractured response has exacted a heavy price across the south and west, after previous hot spots such as New York emerged from the worst of the virus.
“Our hospitals here in Harris County, Houston, and 33 other cities … they’re into surge capacities. So their operational beds are taken up,” said Lina Hidalgo, chief executive of Harris County, which includes Houston.
“Restaurants are still open. Indoor events can take place no matter the size,” she told the ABC TV channel. “What we need right now is to do what works, which is a stay-home order.”
Steve Adler, the mayor of Austin, Texas, also expressed concern that the health care system could buckle as the disease spreads rapidly.
“If we don’t change the trajectory, then I am within two weeks of having our hospitals overrun. And in our ICUs, I could be 10 days away from that,” he told CNN.
Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said, “We opened way too early in Arizona” state. She suggested that a new stay-at-home order should be issued.
The U.S. is now recording 40,000 new cases a day, with a peak of 57,000 on Friday alone.
One high-profile victim of the global shutdown — the Taj Mahal — will remain closed, it was announced Sunday as India reported 25,000 cases and 613 deaths in 24 hours — the biggest daily spike since the first case was detected in late January.
In New Delhi, medical staff started treating patients at a spiritual center converted into an isolation facility and hospital with 10,000 beds, many made of cardboard and chemically coated to make them waterproof.
Critics allege India is conducting very few tests, leaving the true scale of the pandemic unknown.
In South Africa, dozens of military medics were deployed on Sunday after a surge in infections in East Cape province.
Like India, South Africa imposed some of the strictest stay-at-home measures in the world in late March in a bid to limit the spread of COVID-19, but the number of infections is rising daily as the lockdown rules are gradually eased.
Iran announced 163 new deaths, the country’s highest official one-day toll since the outbreak began, while Morocco discovered an outbreak in a fish-canning factory, with 300,000 inhabitants placed under lockdown.
England’s pubs reopened after a three-month hiatus on Saturday, with police concluding that the thousands of people thronging the streets of London’s Soho nightlife district made it clear “that drunk people can’t/won’t socially distance.”
But Health Secretary Matt Hancock insisted that “very largely people have acted responsibly,” as Britain’s infection numbers continue to fall.
The Louvre, the world’s most visited museum, will reopen on Monday with nearly a third of its galleries shut and crowding banned around the “Mona Lisa” and other masterpieces.
To avoid bottlenecks, arrows will guide visitors through the galleries on a one-way route.
Latin America’s grim virus battle continued, with Chile passing 10,000 deaths on Sunday, while Mexico has had 30,000 fatalities.
In Lebanon, a philharmonic orchestra performed to spectator-free Roman ruins on Sunday as the Baalbek International Festival was downsized to a single concert.
A Canadian military plane headed to Latvia for a NATO mission was forced to turn around for fear that troops on board had been exposed to the virus before takeoff at a military base in Ontario where someone tested positive.
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