Virus Puts UK PM in Intensive Care; Japan Declares Emergency

Staff Writer

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was in intensive care Tuesday fighting the coronavirus, while across the world, Japan's leader declared a monthlong state of emergency for Tokyo and six other regions to keep the virus from ravaging the world's oldest population.

The 55-year-old Johnson, the world’s first known head of government to fall ill with the virus, was conscious in a London hospital and needed oxygen but was not on a ventilator, Cabinet minister Michael Gove said Tuesday.

Britain’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, has taken over running the country with Johnson sidelined by an illness that can be debilitating even for those with access to the world’s best medical care.

“We’re desperately hoping that Boris can make the speediest possible recovery,” said Gove, who is among scores of U.K. officials in self-isolation.

Japan’s prime minister made the emergency declaration after a spike in infections in Tokyo, but it was a stay-at-home request — not an order — and violators will not be penalized. Despite having relatively few infections and deaths, Japan is a worrying target for a virus that has been killing the elderly at much higher rates than other age groups.

In New York and in some European hotspots, authorities were hoping that plateaus in deaths and new hospitalizations meant that key epicenters in the global pandemic were turning a corner.

In Spain, one of the world's hardest-hit countries, new deaths Tuesday rose to 743 and infections rose by 1,000 after five days of declines, but the increases reflected a weekend backlog. Authorities say slowing the contagion will be a long process but were confident in the downward trend.

New coronavirus cases were also slowing in Italy and France, while Portugal reported its lowest daily rise in new infections since the outbreak started. To keep up social distancing, Paris banned daytime jogging just as warm spring weather settled in for a week.

In New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the first, faint signs the outbreak there may be nearing its peak. But h e cautioned against relaxing social distancing restrictions because of the enormous strains still faced by health care workers.

“This is a hospital system where we have our foot to the floor and the engine is at red line and you can’t go any faster,” Cuomo said.

The state has averaged just under 600 deaths daily for the past four days, a horrific toll that was still seen as a positive sign. Cuomo also said the number of new people entering New York hospitals daily has dropped, as has the number of critically ill patients needing ventilators.

Infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci was cautiously optimistic, saying that in New York,“what we have been doing has been working.”

China, the first country to go into lockdown and among the strictest, reported no new deaths over the past 24 hours for the first time since it began publishing statistics on the virus that emerged in December in the central city of Wuhan. Many experts, however, have been skeptical of China's virus figures. The final travel restrictions in Wuhan are being lifted Wednesday.

Denmark planned to reopen schools next week for students up to 11 years old — a development that still felt impossibly distant elsewhere in the world.

Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte promised residents that they will soon “reap the fruit of these sacrifices” in personal liberties, though he declined to say when a nationwide lockdown would end. Italy has the world’s highest death toll — over 16,500 — but intensive care units in the north are no longer airlifting patients to other regions.

Worldwide, more than 1.3 million people have been confirmed infected and over 75,000 have died from the virus, according to Johns Hopkins University. The true numbers are certainly much higher, because of limited testing, different rules for counting the dead and deliberate underreporting by some governments.

Deaths in the U.S. neared 11,000, with more than 368,000 confirmed infections, while cases in Africa reached over 10,000.

For most people, the virus causes mild to moderate symptoms such as fever and cough. But for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause pneumonia and lead to death. More than 285,000 people have recovered worldwide.

Global shares were up Tuesday after the Dow Jones Industrial Average gained nearly 8 percent on Monday on hopes that the pandemic could be slowing.

One of the main models on the outbreak, from the University of Washington, is now projecting about 82,000 U.S. deaths through early August, or 12 percent fewer than previously forecast, with the highest number of daily deaths occurring on April 16.

One lockdown exception in the United States was Wisconsin, which was asking hundreds of thousands of voters to ignore a stay-at-home order to participate in its presidential primary on Tuesday.

On the treatment front, South Korea said it will soon announce guidelines for hospitals on experimental coronavirus treatments using donated blood from patients who survived. A health official said the guide will be drawn from the country’s experiences with similar treatments on patients with the MERS virus.

China and Russia decided to close their land border and river port near the far-eastern city of Vladivostok following the discovery of 59 confirmed cases.

But as effective as the lockdowns may be, they come at a steep toll, especially for the poor.

In a housing complex in the Moroccan city of Sale, over 900 people live in crowded rooms without running water or incomes. While the North African country entered total lockdown in mid-March, self-isolation and social distancing are a luxury that few families in this complex can afford.

In Sale, children hang around the communal courtyard and run through narrow alleyways. Families share one room and fill buckets of water at public fountains. Warda, a mother of three, knows the risks but sees no alternatives.

“I am scared for my children. I have to lock them indoors and stay with them, but how am I supposed to feed them?” she asked.

Other nations also feared food shortages, with Cambodia’s leader ordering a ban on exports of rice and fish to ensure there are enough key staples during the coronavirus crisis.

Medical workers around the world still worried they were not being protected well enough against the virus, with doctors in Pakistan and Greece protesting Tuesday against a lack of protective equipment.

In a move to boost spirits, New Zealand's leader clarified the definition of who are considered essential workers.

“You will be pleased to know that we do consider both the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny to be essential workers,” Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said just a few days before Easter Sunday.