The US has become the first country to exceed 100,000 confirmed coronavirus cases as Donald Trump signed into law the largest economic stimulus package in US history, a $2.2tn bill designed to rush federal assistance to workers and businesses.
The number of confirmed US cases rose by 15,000 on Friday, fewer than the 16,000 reported on Thursday. By Friday night there were more than 6,000 hospitalised Covid-19 patients in New York with almost 1,600 in intensive care while the state had logged 519 deaths, the most in the US, and more than 44,000 infections.
Hospitals in New York City, New Orleans, Detroit and other virus hotspots have sounded the alarm about scarcities of drugs, medical supplies and trained staff.
“This is going to be weeks and weeks and weeks,” the New York governor, Andrew Cuomo, told members of the National Guard working at the Javits convention centre which has been converted to hospital. “This is going to be a long day, and it’s going to be a hard day, and it’s going to be an ugly day, and it’s going to be a sad day.”
In California a navy hospital ship, the Mercy, has docked at the Port of Los Angeles to provide 1,000 beds and full medical facilities – freeing up hospitals on land for seriously ill coronavirus patients, as the state braces for an outbreak potentially on New York’s scale.
The president on Friday invoked a national security law compelling General Motors (GM) to mass produce ventilators – accompanied by barbs that the carmaker had not been acting quickly enough. Some saw it as partly an act of spite amid Trump’s continuing feud with the company – GM said it had already been working around the clock for more than a week to help build more ventilators.
Italy became the second country to overtake China in terms of the number of infections, reaching more than 86,000 cases. Its latest 969 deaths represent the highest national one-day figure anywhere since the outbreak began, seemingly dashing hopes that Italy might be flattening its rate of infection.
South Korea reported 146 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the highest number in a week, its disease control agency said. Officials said they were “imported” cases: infected people who had arrived from Europe and the United States during recent days.
China’s National Health Commission said on Saturday that 54 new coronavirus infections had been reported on the mainland on Friday, all involving so-called imported cases. There were 55 new cases a day earlier. The total number of infections for mainland China stood at 81,394 with the death toll rising by three to 3,295, the commission said.
The number of coronavirus deaths in the UK has risen sharply from 578 to 759, the country’s biggest day-on-day increase to date.
Passengers on a cruise ship stranded off the coast of Panama have issued a plea to be allowed to dock after four people died on board. It was not yet known on Friday whether the deaths were coronavirus-related but two people tested positive on the Zaandam, operated by Holland America Line, while dozens were taken ill with flu-like symptoms. Hundreds of North American, Australian and British citizens were in isolation in their rooms as a boat-to-boat operation began to move some healthy travellers to a sister ship, the Rotterdam, throughout the weekend. Panamanian authorities were refusing to let the Zaandam pass through the canal to reach Fort Lauderdale, Florida, after other countries including Chile and Argentina turned it away.
Around the world, quarantine and lockdown conditions have caused a rise in domestic violence. In Hubei province, China, domestic violence reports to police more than tripled in one county during February, activists said. In Spain the Catalan regional government said calls to its helpline had risen by 20% while Italian crisis centres said they were fielding desperate text messages and emails. “One message was from a woman who had locked herself in the bathroom and wrote to ask for help,” said Lella Palladino, president of D.i.Re, the Women against Violence Network. “There is more desperation as women can’t go out.”