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New York police to crack down on social distancing as deaths double to 1,941 in just 72 hours

Greece looks to lock down refugee camp after confirmed case among migrants

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Mercy mission: A medical worker watches from a platform of the Gare d’Austerlitz train station through the window of a medicalised TGV high-speed train before its departure to evacuate patients infected with Covid-19 from Paris to other hospitals in western France. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

Mercy mission: A medical worker watches from a platform of the Gare d’Austerlitz train station through the window of a medicalised TGV high-speed train before its departure to evacuate patients infected with Covid-19 from Paris to other hospitals in western France. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

AFP via Getty Images

Mercy mission: A medical worker watches from a platform of the Gare d’Austerlitz train station through the window of a medicalised TGV high-speed train before its departure to evacuate patients infected with Covid-19 from Paris to other hospitals in western France. Photo: AFP via Getty Images

New York authorities rushed to bring in an army of medical volunteers yesterday as the statewide death toll from the coronavirus doubled in 72 hours to more than 1,900.

The wail of ambulances in the otherwise eerily quiet streets of the city became the heartbreaking soundtrack of the crisis.

As hot spots flared around the US in places like New Orleans and Southern California, the nation's biggest city was the hardest hit of them all, with bodies loaded on to refrigerated morgue trucks by forklift outside overwhelmed hospitals, in full view of passing motorists.

"It's like a battlefield behind your home," said Emma Sorza (33), who could hear the sirens from severely swamped Elmhurst Hospital in Queens.

And the worst is yet to come.

"How does it end? And people want answers," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said. "I want answers. The answer is nobody knows for sure."

Yesterday he cracked down even harder on public gatherings, calling residents who disregarded stay-at-home rules "selfish".

Mr Cuomo told New York City police to enforce rules for social distancing more aggressively as deaths in the state shot up to 1,941.

One month after it found its first infection - a health care worker returning from Iran - the state tallied more than 83,000 cases.

New York logged its first virus-related death less than three weeks ago.

With more than 12,000 people hospitalised, Mr Cuomo said the latest outbreak projections show no respite this month.

He said he was closing playgrounds, swing sets, basketball courts and similar spaces, while open spaces in parks would remain open for now. He sounded vexed by reports of crowds gathering at a Manhattan pier to watch the arrival of the US Navy hospital ship, the Comfort.

"How reckless and irresponsible and selfish for people not to do it on their own," Mr Cuomo said.

All told, 4,529 people have died across the US from Covid-19 so far, with more than 205,000 cases reported.

White House medical experts forecast that even with strict observance of stay-at-home orders imposed in 36 states and the District of Columbia, some 100,000 to 240,000 people could die from the respiratory disease.

Since 2010, the flu has killed between 12,000 and 61,000 Americans a year, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. The 1918-1919 flu pandemic killed 675,000 in the United States.

While New York remains the centre of the pandemic, states across the country experienced a surge of cases, including California, Michigan, Florida, and New Jersey.

Even with signs that strict stay-at-home rules are slowing the outbreak, and the Comfort's sister ship, the USNS Mercy, parked off Los Angeles, California governor Gavin Newsom warned the state would run out of hospital beds within six weeks.

Connecticut governor Ned Lamont announced what he called a tragic milestone as the virus claimed its youngest victim to date, a six-week-old baby. "It just is a reminder that nobody is safe from this virus."

Meanwhile, Greece was considering imposing a lockdown on a refugee camp yesterday after a migrant woman tested positive for coronavirus.

In what would be the first case for an asylum seeker in Greece, she was found to have the virus after giving birth in Athens. It was not clear whether she contracted it in the hospital or had been infected in Ritsona camp, north of the capital.

The woman's partner tested negative for the virus, but officials were still anxious to trace who else she had been in contact with inside the camp, which hosts around 2,500 people.

Greece has long feared the nightmare scenario of coronavirus spreading through its squalid, overcrowded refugee camps.

Elsewhere, Spain recorded another 864 deaths, the highest in one day. More than 9,000 have died in Spain, which is second only to Italy in fatalities caused by the virus.

Doctors in a hospital in Madrid said they were beginning to run out of medicines.

Another 727 people were reported to have died in Italy yesterday, the lowest daily total since last Thursday. It takes the total death toll to 13,155.

A third of the 509 deaths registered in France yesterday were from the Paris region, with the countrywide death toll now at 4,032, making it the fourth country to pass the 4,000-fatalities mark.

Irish Independent