Spain, Italy demand EU help; New Yorkers avoid travel

BARCELONA (AP) — Spain and Italy demanded more European help as they fight still-surging coronavirus infections amid the continent’s worst crisis since World War II. In the United States (US), authorities urged millions in the hard-hit New York City region to stop travelling to keep the virus contained.

From Milan to Madrid to Michigan, medics are making tough choices about which patients to save with the limited breathing machines they have. The confirmed global death surpassed 30,000 and new virus epicentres emerged in key US cities like Detroit, New Orleans and Chicago. Even rural America has not been immune, as virus hotspots erupt in Midwestern towns and in Rocky Mountain ski havens.

Spain and Italy alone account for more than half of the world’s death toll, and are still seeing over 800 deaths a day each.

Experts said, however, that virus toll numbers across the world are being seriously under-represented due to limited testing and political decisions about which bodies to count. Unlike the US, France and Italy do not count deaths that take place in nursing homes or in homes among their virus numbers — even though nursing homes are known to be key coronavirus incubators around the world.

‘’Europe must demonstrate that it is able to respond to this historic call,’’ Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said late last Saturday. “I will fight until the last drop of sweat, until the last gram of energy, to obtain a strong, vigorous, cohesive European response.”

A healthcare worker takes samples from a driver at a drive-through testing point for COVID-19 at the University Hospital in Burgos, Spain. PHOTO: AFP

US President Donald Trump backtracked on a threat to quarantine New York and neighbouring states amid criticism and questions about the legality of such a move. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a travel advisory urging all residents of New York City and others in New York state, New Jersey and Connecticut to avoid all non-essential travel for 14 days.

Shocking as that is for Americans, that stopped short of the restrictions imposed in Europe or elsewhere. Parisians are fined if they try to leave the city and South Africans can’t even walk their dog. In Italy, coffins are piling up despite three weeks of strict confinement and burials are being held with only one family member.

Spain’s government moved to tighten its lockdown and ban all non-essential work yesterday as it hit another daily record of 838 dead. The country’s overall official toll is more than 6,500.

Spain’s emergencies chief expressed hope that “the outbreak is stabilising and may be reaching its peak in some areas.”

But the crisis is pummelling world economies and putting huge strains on national healthcare systems. Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez called for a more vigorous response from the 27-nation European Union (EU).

“It is the most difficult moment for the EU since its foundation and it has to be ready to rise to the challenge,” Sanchez said.

Spain, Italy, France and six other EU members have asked the union to share the burden of European debt, dubbed coronabonds, to help fight the virus. But the idea has met resistance from other members, led by Germany and the Netherlands.