The United States now has the most coronavirus cases in the world with more than 86,000 confirmed infections after overtaking both China and Italy as the global pandemic continues to spread.
Italy was set to pass China’s more than 81,000 infections later on Friday. The US, Italy and China now account for almost half of the world’s 540,000 infections and more than half of the virus deaths.
This is as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed his coronavirus status in which he tested positive for killer disease after Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty urged him to get checked after he developed a cough.
The 55-year old Johnson dramatically announced he is suffering from coronavirus today – but insisted he is still determined to lead the UK battle against the crisis.
The Prime Minister said he had tested positive for the disease, after developing a temperature and cough yesterday afternoon, and being advised by Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty to get checked.
With 1,200 deaths from the disease, the US is still some way behind hardest-hit Italy where almost 7,000 people have been killed.
Disease experts have warned the American death toll could eventually top 80,000 even if people adhere to social distancing. The World Health Organisation had predicted this week that the US was likely to overtake Europe as the new epicenter of the disease.
Despite the grim figures released on Thursday, President Donald Trump claimed that data being released by China – which has claimed zero new domestic infections in recent days – could not be trusted and that higher rates of testing in the US was behind the surge in cases.
He also accused Andrew Cuomo – the governor of hardest-hit New York – of exaggerating the state’s need for ventilators, a key piece of equipment used to keep coronavirus patients in critical condition alive. More than 170 people died in New York City alone between Wednesday and Thursday.
Meanwhile, Dr Anthony Fauci, America’s top disease expert, was forced to again pour cold water on Trump’s repeated suggestion that the US could be back open for business by April 12.
Johnson insisted he only has ‘mild’ symptoms’, and will be continuing to lead the national response over video-conference. The PM will stay in his flat in No11 – from where he chaired a meeting of the ‘war Cabinet’ this morning – and aides will leave meals and work outside the door.
The PM’s spokesman said he would be carry out ‘all of the same functions he was performing before’ and ‘the only difference is he will now have to do that via teleconferencing’.
Mr Johnson’s pregnant partner Carrie Symonds is believed to be in self-isolation, although it is not known when they last saw each other or if she has been checked.
The bombshell news underlines fears that the crisis is escalating, and will increase pressure on the government over the lack of wide-scale testing of the general public. There are concerns that other senior ministers, senior officials such as Prof Whitty, might have been infected.
However, Downing Street insisted there is no need for other members of the government to get tests unless they start displaying symptoms,
And despite the government’s own guidance saying people must self-isolate for 14 days if anyone in their ‘household’ develops symptoms, no senior figures – such as Chancellor Rishi Sunak who was with the PM last night or chief aide Dominic Cummings – are going into isolation.
In a video, Mr Johnson said: ‘Hi folks I want to bring you up to speed on something that is happening today which is that I have developed mild symptoms of coronavirus, that is to say a temperature and a persistent cough, and on the advice of the chief medical officer I have taken a test.
‘That has come out positive so I am working from home, I am self isolating.
‘That is entirely the right thing to do but be in no doubt that I can continue thanks to the wizardry of modern technology to communicate with all my top team to lead the national fight back against coronavirus.’
Downing Street has previously said that Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab will fill in if the PM is incapacitated, although there is little sign that he has stopped working.
In another frantic day of developments in the battle against coronavirus:
- A council is facing a furious backlash after targeting members of the public with drones, as lawyers warned that police are ‘unlawfully’ trying to restrict people travelling to isolated spots to exercise and walk their dogs;
- There are demands for the government to go further to help millions of self-employed after Mr Sunak admitted a bailout for income support will not be up and running until June;
- There are fears the outbreak is accelerating after the declared UK death toll rose by 113 to 578 yesterday – the steepest increase yet;
- Buckingham Palace has said the Queen remains in ‘good health’ and has not seen the PM since March 11;
- GP Habib Zaidi, 76, who died at Southend Hospital in Essex, is feared to have become the first doctor in the UK to have died after contracting coronavirus;
- Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley has apologised for ‘ill-judged and poorly timed’ emails after the businessman faced fierce criticism when he tried to claim Sports Direct was an essential operator for keeping the nation fit;
- UK supermarkets said they will use a government database of 1.5 million vulnerable shoppers to help prioritise delivery slots.
- It has emerged an email mix-up meant the UK did not participate in an EU scheme for sourcing more ventilators quickly;
- Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner has announced she is self-isolating after coming down with coronavirus symptoms that ‘gradually’ increased.
(Mail and Busiweek.com)