US has highest global tally of virus cases, surpasses China and Italy

The pandemic has already, and rapidly, been catastrophic to the global economy and now is hitting the US as well

The United States on Thursday took the grim title of the country with the most coronavirus infections and reported a record surge in unemployment as world leaders vowed $5trn to stave off global economic collapse.

More than 500,000 people around the world have now contracted the new coronavirus, overwhelming healthcare systems even in wealthy nations and triggering an avalanche of government-ordered lockdowns that have disrupted life for billions. In the United States, more than 83,000 people have tested positive for COVID-19, edging out Italy, which has reported the most deaths, and China, where the virus was first detected in December in the metropolis of Wuhan. Furthermore, the US has recorded 1,178 deaths, while the global death toll stood at 23,293.

"We are waging war on this virus using every financial, scientific, medical, pharmaceutical and military resource, to halt its spread and protect our citizens," US President Donald Trump said, urging citizens to do their part by practicing social distancing: "Stay home. Just relax, stay home."

In New York alone, the virus hotbed in the United States, authorities hope to stem infections as the city struggles to more than double the number of available hospital beds.

"Almost any scenario that is realistic will overwhelm the capacity of the current healthcare system," Governor Andrew Cuomo warned.

First responders in New York were receiving more than 6,000 calls to the 911 emergency line a day, many from people seeking virus testing.

It is "breaking records. We didn't have this many calls on 9/11," said Anthony Almojeria, a leader in the emergency medical services union, referring to the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Yet, Trump insisted that the country is successfully combatting the coronavirus, and cast doubt when asked about the US surpassing China in reported coronavirus cases.

"You don't know what the numbers are in China," Trump said in a press briefing. 

Still, he decided not to reopen the country by 12 April, amid warnings from public health officials and indications that the outbreak is becoming more severe. 

A study from Britain's Imperial College even provided a grim prediction, saying 1.8 million people could die worldwide this year even with swift action to halt the virus.

With fears mounting of a global recession if not depression, leaders from the Group of 20 major economies held crisis talks by video link Thursday, pledging a "united front" to fight the outbreak - along with an enormous financial injection.

"The virus respects no borders," the leaders said in a statement.

"We are injecting over $5trn into the global economy, as part of targeted fiscal policy, economic measures, and guarantee schemes to counteract the social, economic and financial impacts of the pandemic."

They also pledged "robust" support for developing nations, where coronavirus could next take hold after ravaging China and then Europe. But the unity pledged by the G20 has been in short supply, with China and the United States trading barbs over their handling of the coronavirus crisis.

And Italy as well as Spain, which has the second-highest death toll, objected to a draft economic plan by the European Union which they saw as too weak. Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte wants a "strong and sufficient" financial response that deploys "innovative financial instruments truly adapted to a war," his office said.

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