The Tokyo Olympics were put off to next year as coronavirus deaths and infections surged in Europe and the US yesterday, with New York warning it is about to get hit by a "bullet train".
However, world stocks soared as US politicians closed in on a $2tn (€1.85tn) deal to help American businesses and citizens pull through the crisis.
A flicker of hope that Italy might be turning the corner faded after officials reported an increase in new cases and deaths. More than 400,000 people worldwide have been infected and more than 18,000 have died.
In New York City, now one of the biggest hot spots, authorities rushed to set up thousands of hospital beds for potential victims. But the number of cases is doubling every three days, threatening to swamp the city's intensive care units in the weeks ahead, Governor Andrew Cuomo said. New York State has recorded more than 200 deaths, or one-third of the US total.
"One of the forecasters said to me we were looking at a freight train coming across the country," the governor said. "We're now looking at a bullet train."
Mr Cuomo proposed that the country send thousands of ventilators to New York City - the metropolitan area needs 30,000 of them, he said - and demanded that US President Donald Trump use wartime authority to force manufacturers to produce them.
"People said it's a war. It is a war. Then act like it's a war," Mr Cuomo said.
Mr Trump has invoked the Korean War-era Defence Production Act to deter hoarding, but has been reluctant to use it to force companies to produce medical supplies.
Vice-President Mike Pence said 2,000 ventilators had been shipped to New York and 2,000 more will be sent today.
Meanwhile, the International Olympic Committee postponed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics until the summer of 2021 at the latest, acting on the recommendation of Japan's prime minister.
That could be a heavy economic blow to Japan and could upset athletes' training plans.
In Washington, top congressional and White House officials said they expected to reach a deal during the day on a package to shore up businesses and send payouts to ordinary Americans of $1,200 (€1,110) per person or $3,000 for a family of four.
Stocks rallied around the world on the news. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged more than 2,100 points, or 11.4pc - its biggest one-day percentage gain since 1933, during the Depression.
Mr Trump said he hoped to reopen the country in less than three weeks.
"I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter," he said.
But with infections in the US reaching nearly 50,000 and 600 deaths, public health experts warned that could be a mistake.
Spain registered a record one-day increase of nearly 6,600 new infections and a leap of more than 500 in the death toll to almost 2,700.
In France, authorities said the virus had claimed 240 more victims, raising the country's death toll to 1,100.
In Italy, a jump in the number of new deaths and cases over the past 24 hours dashed hopes fed by two days of declines.
The 743 deaths reported yesterday pushed Italy's toll past 6,800, by far the highest of any country.
"Woe to whoever lets down the guard,'' health minister Roberto Speranza said.
In a distinct shift in the crisis, some 85pc of new infections are coming from Europe and the US. In fact, China is to finally end the two-month lockdown in hard-hit Hubei province, where the outbreak began.
In Britain, there was a confused response to Boris Johnson's lockdown, with Tube trains in London still packed with commuters.
London mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted his anger, saying more workers should be staying at home and insisted that the Tube could not run more services to alleviate crowds.
Amazon and eBay are being urged to clamp down harder on coronavirus profiteering by sellers, after consumer magazine 'Which?' found many everyday household products being offered at inflated prices.