UK’s Johnson virus positive as new outbreaks appear in US

UNITED KINGDOM (AP) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the first leader of a major country to test positive for the coronavirus while disturbing new outbreaks appeared in the United States (US), deaths surged in Italy and Spain and the world warily trudged through the pandemic that has sickened more than a half-million people.

As different populations strive for cures, Iranian media reported nearly 300 people have been killed and more than 1,000 sickened by ingesting methanol as a purported safeguard against the disease.

More than 595,000 people have contracted the virus around the world and about 27,000 have died. While the U.S. now leads the world in reported infections, five countries exceed its roughly 1,700 deaths: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France.

Johnson announced he tested positive for the virus but was continuing to work from self-quarantine. Another casualty was a conference to review the implementation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, postponed indefinitely.

The treaty is considered the cornerstone of global efforts to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons and the 191 parties hold a major conference every five years to discuss how it is working. The meeting had been scheduled to begin on April 27 at United Nation (UN) headquarters in New York.

Economic catastrophe had already arrived in the city, where many already live in poverty and the tourism industry has screeched to a halt.

Homeless people camp downtown in Los Angeles. PHOTOS: AP
A girl bicycles along a section of the Grand Concourse that has been temporarily closed to vehicular traffic as the city tests out a pilot programme providing more social distancing space during the coronavirus pandemic, in the Bronx borough of New York

“I’ve never been unemployed. But now, all of a sudden, Wop!” said John Moore, the musician best known as Deacon John, who has no gigs to perform with much of the city shut down.

“It ain’t just me. It’s everybody.”

In New York, where there are more than 44,000 cases statewide, the number of people hospitalised with COVID-19 passed 6,000 on Friday, double what it had been three days earlier.

Governor Andrew Cuomo called for 4,000 more temporary beds across New York City, where the Jacob K Javits Convention Center has already been converted into a hospital.

The struggle to defeat the virus will take “weeks and weeks and weeks,” Cuomo told members of the National Guard working at the Javits Centre.

President Donald Trump invoked the Defense Production Act on Friday, ordering General Motors to begin manufacturing ventilators. Trump had earlier rejected Cuomo’s pleas for tens of thousands more of the machines and the governor’s calls to implement the Korean War-era production law.

Trump signed a USD2.2 trillion stimulus package, after the House approved the sweeping measure by voice vote.

Lawmakers in both parties lined up behind the law to send checks to millions of Americans, boost unemployment benefits, help businesses and toss a life preserver to an overwhelmed health care system.

More than 595,000 people have contracted the virus around the world and about 27,000 have died. While the US now leads the world in reported infections, five countries exceed its roughly 1,700 deaths: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France.

Dr John Brooks of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned Americans remained “in the acceleration phase” of the pandemic and that all corners of the country were at risk.

“There is no geographic part of the US that is spared from this,” he said.