The hunt for ventilators and other medical supplies consumed the U.S. and Europe on Monday, as new coronavirus infections soared and political paralysis stalled efforts for a quick aid package from Congress. Asian markets and U.S. futures both sank as more governments tightened restrictions to fight the pandemic.
Fears grew that densely crowded New York could become one of the world’s biggest coronavirus hotspots, prompting cancellations of everything from play dates to picnics in the park to pickup basketball games. The city’s mayor said hospitals were 10 days away from shortages in “really basic supplies” that seriously endangered both health care workers and patients.
“If we don’t get the equipment, we’re literally going to lose lives,” Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN.
READ MORE: Coronavirus — Can Canadians expect another pandemic like COVID-19 in the future?
A surge in infections has caused a critical shortage of medical supplies in many places. Spain erected a field hospital in a convention center. British health workers pleaded for more gear, saying they felt like “cannon fodder.” U.S. President Donald Trump ordered mobile hospital centers be sent to Washington, California and New York.
Health care workers have said they were being asked to reuse and ration disposable masks and gloves. A shortage of ventilators, crucial for treating serious cases of the virus, has become critical.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, promised that medical supplies are about to start pouring in and will be “clearly directed to those hot spots that need it most.”
But efforts for a quick aid package from Congress faltered. The U.S. Senate voted against advancing a nearly $2 trillion economic rescue package. Democrats argued it was tilted toward corporations rather than workers and health care providers. Another vote was expected Monday.
The delay shook investors, as has the accumulation of cancelled events large and small, the soaring numbers of unemployed and a general, widespread shrinking in spending. An untold number of burials are going forward with nothing more than a priest, a funeral home staffer and one loved one to bear witness.
Markets reopened to an altered business landscape as lockdowns and closures intended to halt the spread of the new coronavirus expanded over the weekend to include many cities around the world and the number of people infected surged.
U.S. futures slipped more than 3 per cent on Monday and share benchmarks in many Asian markets logged sharp losses.
Worldwide, nearly 340,000 people have been infected and over 14,700 have died from the virus that first emerged in central China late last year. As cases in China ebbed, the dangers to Europe and the U.S. have grown exponentially. After just weeks, the U.S. has more than 33,000 cases and more than 400 deaths. Worldwide, some 99,000 people have recovered, mostly in China.