India's 1.3 billion locked down as virus surges elsewhere

  • In this March 24, 2020, photo released by Xinhua News Agency, firefighters conduct disinfection on the platform at Yichang East Railway Station in Yichang, in central China's Hubei Province, March 24, 2020. China is re-opening some train stations and bus service as it lifts a lockdown in Hubei province to stem the spread of a new coronavirus. The provincial railway group said that stations would open in all cities except Wuhan on Wednesday. (Photo by Wang Shen/Xinhua)

    In this March 24, 2020, photo released by Xinhua News Agency, firefighters conduct disinfection on the platform at Yichang East Railway Station in Yichang, in central China's Hubei Province, March 24, 2020. China is re-opening some train stations and bus service as it lifts a lockdown in Hubei province to stem the spread of a new coronavirus. The provincial railway group said that stations would open in all cities except Wuhan on Wednesday. (Photo by Wang Shen/Xinhua) Associated Press

  • People wearing face masks pass members of the Salvation Army's campaign for the donation of face masks and money to impoverished people amid the spread of the new coronavirus in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The sign reads: "The Salvation Army and charity pot."

    People wearing face masks pass members of the Salvation Army's campaign for the donation of face masks and money to impoverished people amid the spread of the new coronavirus in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The sign reads: "The Salvation Army and charity pot." Associated Press

  • Members of the Salvation Army stand with charity pots during a campaign for the donation of face masks and money to impoverished people amid the spread of the new coronavirus in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The sign reads: "The Salvation Army and charity pot."

    Members of the Salvation Army stand with charity pots during a campaign for the donation of face masks and money to impoverished people amid the spread of the new coronavirus in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. The sign reads: "The Salvation Army and charity pot." Associated Press

  • A person waits to enter a Trader Joe's grocery store, as a shopper leaves in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

    A person waits to enter a Trader Joe's grocery store, as a shopper leaves in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Associated Press

  • People stand in line, while maintaining distance to the neighboring person, as they wait to enter a Trader Joe's grocery store in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

    People stand in line, while maintaining distance to the neighboring person, as they wait to enter a Trader Joe's grocery store in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Associated Press

  • People stand in line, but leaving space to the neighboring person, while waiting to enter a Trader Joe's grocery store in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 24, 2020.

    People stand in line, but leaving space to the neighboring person, while waiting to enter a Trader Joe's grocery store in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. Associated Press

  • In this March 24, 2020, photo released by Xinhua News Agency, an aerial photo shows vehicles waiting to cross into Wuhan at a highway toll station in Wuhan, in central China's Hubei Province. Hubei has ended a lockdown for most of the province, allowing people who have passed health checks to leave for the first time in two months. The provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus hit hardest, remains locked down until April 8. (Cai Yang/Xinhua via AP)

    In this March 24, 2020, photo released by Xinhua News Agency, an aerial photo shows vehicles waiting to cross into Wuhan at a highway toll station in Wuhan, in central China's Hubei Province. Hubei has ended a lockdown for most of the province, allowing people who have passed health checks to leave for the first time in two months. The provincial capital of Wuhan, where the virus hit hardest, remains locked down until April 8. (Cai Yang/Xinhua via AP) Associated Press

  • A man wears a face mask at a shop in Hong Kong Wednesday, March 25, 2020. For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia.

    A man wears a face mask at a shop in Hong Kong Wednesday, March 25, 2020. For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. Associated Press

  • People wearing face masks walk at a down town street in Hong Kong Wednesday, March 25, 2020. For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia.

    People wearing face masks walk at a down town street in Hong Kong Wednesday, March 25, 2020. For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. Associated Press

  • A man wearing face mask walks past a shop at a down town street in Hong Kong Wednesday, March 25, 2020. For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia.

    A man wearing face mask walks past a shop at a down town street in Hong Kong Wednesday, March 25, 2020. For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. Associated Press

  • People wearing face masks walk at a down town street in Hong Kong Wednesday, March 25, 2020. For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia.

    People wearing face masks walk at a down town street in Hong Kong Wednesday, March 25, 2020. For most, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. But for a few, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illnesses, including pneumonia. Associated Press

  • A lone street performer tunes his guitar on a mostly-empty Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. New cases of the coronavirus surged around the state.

    A lone street performer tunes his guitar on a mostly-empty Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. New cases of the coronavirus surged around the state. Associated Press

  • A motorcyclist rides in extremely light traffic along California 110 in Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is ordering the state's 40 million residents to stay at home indefinitely. His order restricts non-essential movements to control the spread of the coronavirus that threatens to overwhelm the state's medical system. He called up 500 National Guard troops Thursday to help with distributing food.

    A motorcyclist rides in extremely light traffic along California 110 in Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. California Gov. Gavin Newsom is ordering the state's 40 million residents to stay at home indefinitely. His order restricts non-essential movements to control the spread of the coronavirus that threatens to overwhelm the state's medical system. He called up 500 National Guard troops Thursday to help with distributing food. Associated Press

  • A lone street performer tunes his guitar on the deserted Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. A tally by Johns Hopkins University on Tuesday found California coronavirus cases have topped 2,500, with at least 50 deaths.

    A lone street performer tunes his guitar on the deserted Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles on Tuesday, March 24, 2020. A tally by Johns Hopkins University on Tuesday found California coronavirus cases have topped 2,500, with at least 50 deaths. Associated Press

  • A Thai Buddhist prays after offering food to Thai Buddhist monks as they wear face masks to protect themselves from a new coronavirus in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Thailand's government agreed to declare an emergency to take stricter measures to control the coronavirus outbreak that has infected hundreds of people in the Southeast Asian country. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

    A Thai Buddhist prays after offering food to Thai Buddhist monks as they wear face masks to protect themselves from a new coronavirus in Bangkok, Thailand, Wednesday, March 25, 2020. Thailand's government agreed to declare an emergency to take stricter measures to control the coronavirus outbreak that has infected hundreds of people in the Southeast Asian country. For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death. Associated Press

 
 
Posted3/25/2020 7:00 AM

NEW DELHI -- The world's largest democracy went under the world's biggest lockdown Wednesday, with India's 1.3 billion people ordered to stay home in a bid to stop the coronavirus pandemic from spreading and overwhelming its fragile health care system as it has done elsewhere.

The unprecedented move came as infections surged in Europe, New York scrambled to set up thousands of new hospital beds, and organizers delayed this summer's Tokyo Olympics until next year. Financial markets continued their wild swings, with Wall Street posting its best day since 1933 as U.S. Congress and the White House neared a nearly $2 trillion aid deal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

In India, everything but essential services like supermarkets were shuttered. Normally bustling railway stations in New Delhi were deserted and streets that just hours before were jumbled with honking cars were eerily silent with just a trickle of pedestrians.

'Delhi looks like a ghost town,' said Nishank Gupta, a lawyer. 'I have never seen the city so quiet before.'

India has about 450 cases of the virus, but Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned that if he didn't take action now it could set the country back decades.

More than 422,000 people worldwide have been infected and nearly 19,000 have died, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University.

A flicker of hope that Italy, which has seen the most deaths in the world, might be turning the corner faded Tuesday after officials reported an increase in both new cases and fatalities. Spain had so many bodies it commandeered an ice rink to store them.

There are signs, however, that drastic measures to keep people away from one another can push back the spread of the illness. In China, the province where the outbreak was first spotted late last year started lifting its lockdown.

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Some train stations and bus services reopened in Hubei on Wednesday and people who passed health check would finally be allowed to travel for the first time since January. A similar easing in the hard-hit epicenter of Wuhan is planned for April 8, though buses and subways could start sooner.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

It is the latter cases - often requiring ventilators and specialized care - that threaten to overwhelm hospitals, which in several countries are already running short of critical equipment needed to treat patients and keep doctors and nurses safe.

In New York, the number of cases is doubling every three days, threatening to swamp the city's intensive care units in the weeks ahead, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. The state has recorded more than 200 deaths, or one-third of the U.S. total.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

'One of the forecasters said to me: 'We were looking at a freight train coming across the country,'" the governor said. 'We're now looking at a bullet train.'

Cuomo proposed the country send thousands of ventilators to New York City - the metropolitan area needs 30,000 of them, he said - and demanded that President Donald Trump use wartime authority to force manufacturers to produce them.

Trump has invoked the Korean War-era Defense Production Act to deter hoarding but has been reluctant to use it to force companies to produce medical supplies. Vice President Mike Pence said on Fox News that 2,000 ventilators have been shipped to New York and 2,000 more will be sent Wednesday.

In Washington, top congressional and White House officials said they expected to reach a deal soon on a package to shore up businesses and send relief checks to ordinary Americans of $1,200 per person or $3,000 for a family of four.

Stocks rallied around the world on the news. On Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average surged more than 2,100 points, or 11.4%,.

With Americans' lives and livelihoods hanging in the balance, Trump said he hoped to reopen the country in less than three weeks.

'I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter,' he said during a Fox News virtual town hall.

With infections in the U.S. exceeding 50,000, including more than 690 deaths, public health experts have warned that failing to maintain social distancing would balloon infections to the point the health care system would be overwhelmed and many more people would die.

Spain, meanwhile, registered a record one-day increase of nearly 6,600 new infections and a leap of more than 500 deaths, to almost 2,700.

The country started storing bodies in an ice rink converted to a morgue until they could be buried or cremated. Also, army troops disinfecting nursing homes discovered elderly people living amid the corpses of suspected coronavirus victims. Prosecutors opened an investigation.

In Italy, a jump in the number of new deaths and cases dashed hopes fed by two days of declines. The 743 deaths reported Tuesday pushed Italy's toll past 6,800, by far the highest of any country.

'Woe to whoever lets down the guard,'' Health Minister Roberto Speranza said.

World Health Organization spokeswoman Margaret Harris said cases around the world are expected to increase "considerably."

With no end to the crisis in sight, the International Olympic Committee on Tuesday postponed the 2020 Tokyo Olympics until the summer of 2021 at the latest, acting on the recommendation of Japan's prime minister.

In New Zealand, the government declared a state of emergency as it prepared to go into an unprecedented lockdown late Wednesday for about a month.

"I have one simple message for New Zealanders today as we head into the next four weeks: Stay at home," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said. "It will break the chain of transmission and it will save lives.'

In Brazil, which has seen about 2,200 cases, President Jair Bolsonaro was taking a different approach, sticking with his contention that virus concerns were overblown.

'The virus arrived, we are confronting it, and it will pass shortly," he said in a nationwide address Tuesday. "Our lives have to continue, jobs should be maintained.'

He said certain Brazilian states should abandon their 'scorched earth' policy of prohibiting public transport, closing business and schools, and urging people to stay home.

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Blake reported from Bangkok. Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow AP coverage of the virus outbreak at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

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