PARIS—The hunt for masks, ventilators, and other medical supplies consumed Europe on March 23, as CCP virus infections soared and political paralysis stalled efforts for a quick aid package from Congress.
The Epoch Times refers to the novel coronavirus, which causes the disease COVID-19, as the CCP virus because the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup and mismanagement allowed the virus to spread throughout China and create a global pandemic.
The risk to doctors, nurses, and others on the front lines has become plain: Italy has seen at least 18 doctors with coronavirus die. Spain reported that more than 3,900 health care workers have become infected, accounting for roughly 12 percent of the country’s total cases.
British health workers pleaded for more gear, saying they felt like “cannon fodder.” In France, doctors scrounged masks from construction workers, factory floors, an architect.
“There’s a wild race to get surgical masks,” François Blanchecott, a biologist on the front lines of testing, told France Inter radio. “We’re asking mayors’ offices, industries, any enterprises that might have a store of masks.”
Health care workers say they’re being asked to reuse and ration disposable masks and gloves. A shortage of ventilators, crucial for treating serious COVID-19 cases, has also become critical, as has a lack of test kits to comply with the World Health Organization’s exhortations to test as many people as possible.
The delay shook investors, as has the accumulation of canceled events large and small, the soaring numbers of unemployed, and a widespread pullback in spending.
Worldwide, nearly 350,000 people have been reported to be infected and 15,000 have died from the virus that first emerged in central China in late 2019. The dangers to Europe and the U.S. have grown exponentially over the past month, although Germany on March 23 cautiously reported some flattening of its infection curve.
For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever or coughing. But for some older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. Over 100,000 people are reported to have recovered.
Italy’s infections have continued to spike, hitting 59,000 cases and 5,476 deaths, and India’s prime minister asked, with mixed results, his nation of 1.3 billion people to stay home. The arrival of the global pandemic in Syria as well as the Gaza Strip has raised concerns it could run rampant in some of the most vulnerable areas in the Mideast.
With weddings and other large gatherings banned in many places, an untold number of burials are going forward with nothing more than a minister, a funeral home staffer, and one loved one to bear witness.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe acknowledged that postponing this year’s Summer Olympics could be unavoidable. Canada and Australia added to the pressure on Olympic organizers by suggesting they wouldn’t send athletes to Tokyo this summer. The International Olympic Committee said it would examine the situation over the next few weeks.
“If it is difficult to hold in a complete way, a decision of postponement would be unavoidable,” Abe said.
Scientists in London predicted that the pandemic’s death toll could easily top 1 million in the U.S. alone.
UK Warns Toughening Virus Restrictions
The British government warned March 23 that it may introduce more draconian measures to slow the spread of the coronavirus if people persist in ignoring social distancing recommendations and crowding public places.
Following a busy weekend at UK parks and food markets, there were growing calls for the government to impose tighter restrictions with more rigorous enforcement, including the potential involvement of military personnel.
Officials at Snowdonia National Park in Wales, which had its “busiest visitor weekend in living memory,” has urged the government to be more explicit with its social distancing advice. They said all the main parking lots would be closed and Snowdonia administrators are “exploring options to close down the most popular mountains and sites if the situation continues.”
Responding to the visibly high use of parks and the London Underground during the virus pandemic, London Mayor Sadiq Khan implored people to stay at home unless they “absolutely need to” move about the city.
British Health Secretary Matt Hancock expressed frustration as well. Hancock said the government would consider locking down the country if the public kept disregarding calls to stop mingling in groups. Hancock described those not heeding official recommendations to stay two meters apart from others as “very selfish.”
The UK had the 10th-highest number of virus cases in the world, 5,903, and the sixth-highest number of virus-related deaths as of March 23, according to tallies from Johns Hopkins University.
New infections are increasing at an exponential rate, raising concern that the country will be on a trajectory like Italy’s in a week or two if containment efforts are not successful.
In the UK, photos of people enjoying the sunny weekend outdoors and of London Underground trains packed with individuals afraid of losing jobs are giving the British government pause.
The prime minister’s spokesman, James Slack, said the government was analyzing data on public transit use, foot traffic in stores, and park visits to gauge whether people were practicing proper social distancing.
“If that data shows they haven’t stopped, then we will need to take further measures,” Slack said. “We won’t hesitate to do so, and we will do so quickly.”
While Britain has ordered bars and restaurants to close, the government’s repeated urging for people to go out only for essential reasons such as food shopping or to exercise has offered wiggle room to a public unaccustomed to confinement.
With health officials warning that thousands could die if action is not taken immediately, the government’s messages have become direr, and its willingness to entertain a nationwide lockdown like the ones imposed in Spain and Italy have become more serious.
“This is not the sort of thing that anybody would want to do, but of course it is the sort of thing we might have to do in order to protect life,’’ Hancock told Sky News. “If you do go out, you must not get closer than two meters from someone who isn’t in your household.’’
Hancock suggested the military would be brought in to help distribute protective equipment to the National Health Service in what he characterized as a “war effort.”
“It is a war against this virus,’’ Hancock told the BBC. “The army have been incredibly helpful in getting those logistics so we can get the supplies to protect people on the front line.”
Hancock said the equipment was like having “armor” to guard against the virus.