Germany ‘s Chancellor Angela Merkel has been forced to go into quarantine after she was vaccinated by a doctor who has since tested positive for coronavirus.
And in the US, Senator Rand Paul has contracted the illness and is also now in isolation.
The news broke as US Congress was meeting for a rare weekend sitting to negotiate an emergency stimulus bill to deal with the fallout of the virus. Senator Paul had not been there for those debates, working remotely that day, but he had been on the floor just days earlier and had mingled with colleagues and reporters.
Senator Rand Paul has tested positive for COVID-19. He is feeling fine and is in quarantine. He is asymptomatic and was tested out of an abundance of caution due to his extensive travel and events. He was not aware of any direct contact with any infected person.
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) March 22, 2020
The Republican is the third member of Congress to have contracted COVID-19 as the virus spreads throughout the US. Staffers have also tested positive and others have been told to self-isolate as a precaution.
Worldwide, there are concerns political leaders may have contracted the coronavirus and in turn spread it to others (many have travelled extensively and attended crowded events).
Doctors and nurses want more protection
Meanwhile, new figures out of Europe on Monday morning show doctors and nurses are increasingly risking their own lives as they work on the frontline of the virus.
Almost 4000 British medical workers have signed a letter to the Sunday Times warning that doctors and nurses in the National Health Service would die if they did not receive better protective equipment.
In Italy, healthcare workers now account for nearly one in 10 of the country’s Covid-19 cases.
Italy’s National Health Institute found more than 4800 health professionals have contracted the coronavirus.
The death toll had climbed by 651 to 5476 by Monday morning (Australian time), a day after Italy recorded 793 new deaths.
Since March 11, at least 18 doctors treating coronavirus patients have died, 15 of whom had been working in the hardest-hit Lombardy region.
Italy and Spain face crisis
Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte went on live TV to announce he is tightening the country’s lockdown and shutting down all production facilities except those providing essential goods and services.
“We are facing the most serious crisis that the country has experienced since World War II,” Mr Conte told Italians during a broadcast at midnight local time.
As bodies piled up in Italian hospitals, morgues and churches, and as medical workers pleaded for more help, there was no sign that Italy was yet taming its arc of contagion.
In Spain, COVID-19 has claimed 394 lives over the past 24 hours, taking its total number of confirmed fatalities to 1720.
About 12 per cent (or about 3500) of the 28,600 infected people are doctors and other health workers.
The acceleration of the country’s death toll forced Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to extend its state of emergency for another 15 days.
In the United States, there have been 49 new coronavirus fatalities recorded in the past 24 hours.
New York bracing for surge
At one New York hospital, half of the more 500 people who tested for the coronavirus received a positive result.
The facility already had 558 coronavirus patients, one in five of whom were in intensive care.
Of nearly 30,000 cases in the United States, more than 15,000 are in New York state, including more than 9000 in New York City.
Nationwide, there were at least 26,747 cases and 374 deaths as the US overtook Germany as the country with the fourth-highest number of cases.
New York City mayor Mayor Bill de Blasio said his city was in desperate need of ventilators and other medical supplies and staff, and lambasted the White House as non-responsive.
Meanwhile, Iran’s supreme leader refused US assistance to fight the virus, citing an unfounded conspiracy theory that the illness could be made by America.
Iran says it has 1685 deaths and 21,638 confirmed cases of the virus – a toll that experts from the World Health Organisation say is almost certainly under-reported.