The United States has endured its worst day of the pandemic, with three Americans dying every minute, as China took decisive steps on Wednesday to stamp out a tiny coronavirus outbreak.
Global infections have soared past 91 million, and the spikes have forced governments around the world to reimpose restrictions such as unpopular and economically painful lockdowns, including in Europe which is battling a devastating second wave.
The United States is the worst-hit nation, logging a record 4,470 deaths in 24 hours on Tuesday, as it reeled from a winter surge in infections that has overwhelmed hospitals and clinics in many areas even as vaccines are rolled out.
“It’s most definitely the darkest period of my entire career,” said Kari McGuire, a palliative care supervisor at the St Mary hospital in Apple Valley, a small rural town in California.
“I’ve personally had to watch people that I know, that I care for, watch their loved ones die. It’s been very difficult.”
Coronavirus patients at the overstretched hospital were crammed into hallways, makeshift ICU beds and even the pediatric ward.
McGuire said there were “astronomical numbers” of Covid-19 deaths — the United States accounts for a fifth of the world’s almost two million coronavirus fatalities.
Authorities on Tuesday announced that starting January 26, all travelers entering the United States by air will need a negative Covid-19 test before departure.
Neighboring Canada also scrambled to contain a worrying outbreak, ordering residents in Ontario — its economic engine and most populous province — to stay home.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford warned that the healthcare system was “on the brink of collapse.”