- U.S. nears milestone of three million known COVID-19 infections.
- Canadian finance minister to deliver fiscal ‘snapshot’ of federal spending since pandemic started.
- Brazilian president says he is confident he will swiftly recover from COVID-19.
- Spain’s Catalonia region makes masks mandatory everywhere.
- Protests in Serbian capital as country reintroduces lockdown over spike in cases.
The coronavirus pandemic is nearing a grim milestone in the United States of more than three million confirmed cases, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, as more states reported record numbers of new infections and Florida faced an impending shortage of intensive care hospital beds.
Texas and California, the country’s two most-populous states, were among those recording a record number of new virus cases across the U.S. on Tuesday.
Authorities have reported alarming upswings of daily caseloads in roughly two-dozen states over the past two weeks, a sign that efforts to control transmission of the novel coronavirus have failed in large swaths of the country.
Hawaii, Missouri, Montana and Oklahoma on Tuesday also shattered their previous daily record highs for new cases. About 24 states have also reported disturbingly high infection rates as a percentage of diagnostic tests conducted over the past week.
In Texas alone, the number of hospitalized patients more than doubled in just two weeks.
The trend has driven many more Americans to seek out COVID-19 screenings. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said on Tuesday it was adding short-term “surge” testing sites in three metropolitan areas in Florida, Louisiana and Texas.
In Houston, a line of more than 200 cars snaked around the United Memorial Medical Center as people waited for hours in sweltering heat to get tested. Some had arrived the night before to secure a place in line at the drive-thru site.
In Florida, more than four-dozen hospitals across 25 of 67 counties reported their intensive care units had reached full capacity, according to the state’s Agency for Health Care Administration. Only 17 per cent of the total 6,010 adult ICU beds statewide were available on Tuesday, down from 20 per cent three days earlier.
Additional hospitalizations could strain health-care systems in many areas, leading to an uptick in deaths from the respiratory illness that has killed more than 131,000 Americans to date.
What’s happening with coronavirus in Canada
As of 5:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday, Canada had 106,167 confirmed and presumptive coronavirus cases. Provinces and territories listed 69,883 of the cases as recovered or resolved. A CBC News tally of deaths based on provincial reports, regional health information and CBC’s reporting stood at 8,755.
Canadians will get a glimpse on Wednesday at how much the federal government has been spending since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Finance Minister Bill Morneau delivers what he call his fiscal “snapshot,” starting at 1:40 p.m. ET in the House of Commons. It’s projected that the deficit could be in excess of $250 billion.
Ontario introduced new legislation Tuesday to enable the extension of some pandemic emergency orders over the next year, as the province reported 112 new cases.
Meanwhile, Toronto and Ottawa joined Kingston, Ont., in requiring non-medical face coverings inside businesses open to the public, starting Tuesday.
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Here’s what’s happening around the world
In Brazil, President Jair Bolsonaro said he is confident he will swiftly recover from the novel coronavirus thanks to treatment with hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug that has not been proven effective against the virus.
Bolsonaro, 65, said he tested positive for the coronavirus on Tuesday after months of downplaying its severity while deaths mounted rapidly inside the country.
WATCH | Bolsonaro tests positive after downplaying risk of COVID-19:
The president told reporters he underwent a lung X-ray on Monday after experiencing fever, muscle aches and malaise. As of Tuesday, his fever had subsided, he said, and he attributed the improvement to hydroxychloroquine.
The right-wing populist posted a video to Facebook of him taking his third dose of hydroxychloroquine, which has also been promoted by U.S. President Donald Trump.
“Today I’m a lot better, so certainly it’s working,” Bolsonaro said, downing the dose with a glass of water.
Brazil, the world’s sixth-biggest nation with more than 210 million people, is one of the outbreak’s most lethal hot spots. More than 65,000 Brazilians have died from COVID-19, and over 1.5 million have been infected.
Both numbers are the world’s second-highest totals, behind those of the U.S., though the true figures are believed to be higher because of a lack of widespread testing. On Tuesday alone, 1,254 deaths were confirmed.
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In Iran, the death toll from COVID-19 passed 12,000 on Wednesday, health ministry spokesperson Sima Sadat Lari said in a statement on state TV. The total number of infections in the country has reached 248,379, she said.
In the Serbian capital of Belgrade on Tuesday, thousands of protesters fought running battles with police and tried to storm the parliament building after the president announced that a coronavirus lockdown will be reintroduced.
Police fired several rounds of tear gas at the protesters, some chanting “Resignation! Resignation!” as they gathered in front of the downtown parliament building. Some of the protesters briefly managed to enter parliament by force, but were pushed back by riot police.
The protesters responded by hurling flares, stones, bottles and eggs at police. Several clashes erupted between some of the most extremist rioters apparently belonging to far-right groups and the baton-wielding police.
In Romania, the number of COVID-19 cases now exceeds 30,000, with about 1,800 deaths, the government reported on Wednesday.
In Spain, Catalonia’s regional authorities will on Wednesday decide to make it mandatory to wear masks regardless of people’s ability to maintain a safe distance, becoming the country’s first region to do so, Catalan regional leader Quim Torra said.
Torra said the measure would come into force on Thursday.
Wearing masks indoors and outdoors is mandatory in Spain if people cannot guarantee a 1.5-metre distance from one another until a cure or vaccine for the coronavirus is found.
In Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday said the country should slow down the return of its citizens from abroad, as Melbourne, the capital of Victoria, and surrounding regions began another partial lockdown to slow the spread of the virus.
The border between the states of Victoria and New South Wales, the busiest in the country, was closed overnight.
Morrison said he would take a proposal on reducing the number of repatriation flights to a national cabinet of state and territory leaders on Friday.
WATCH | Almost 5 million Australians under lockdown after spike in coronavirus cases: