Spain suffered its deadliest day since the outbreak of the coronavirus and Britain’s Prince of Wales became the latest high-profile infection of a pandemic that has infiltrated all walks of life and paralyzed a continent.
From Rome to London, across borders and seas, millions are now largely confined to their homes and economies are crippled. But there are precious few signs that governments have the highly-infectious disease under control, even with billions promised in rescue and aid.
Health authorities in Germany, the continent’s economic motor, warned somberly that this is just the beginning of the crisis. Hospitals in Italy and Spain are overloaded and doctors are making painful decisions on which patients to prioritize.
The latest numbers from Spain made grim reading. The total number of fatalities surged by 738 to 3,434 and the number of confirmed cases jumped to 47,610. Italy had its second-deadliest day Tuesday, dashing hopes the death toll is declining.
In the U.K., the situation has gone from bad to worse. News that the heir to the throne has the virus is a huge blow in a country where the monarchy occupies a special place and feeds into the impression that the situation is out of control. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s leadership has sparked criticism for doing too little, too late as the number of cases rises at an alarming rate.
Some social media users questioned why Charles, who has mild symptoms, received a test when National Health Service doctors are not being systematically tested. Others expressed concerns about the health of Queen Elizabeth II, his mother and head of state.
Parliament could shut Wednesday night and a lockdown only ordered on Friday, way behind the rest of Europe. Charles, 71, is in the age bracket that is most vulnerable and Europe is the continent with the oldest population. Both countries have ground to a halt, with police patrolling the streets to enforce restrictions on movement.
In the past week, European Union’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier. German Chancellor Angela Merkel have also said they are self-isolating. Leaders across the world are now talking to each other via video conference, with all summits being completely re-thought.
In Germany, which tightened lockdown measures this week, parliament is poised to unlock an historic rescue package to cushion the economic impact of the virus. The country that was a fiscal hawk is fast abandoning its iron-clad commitments to a balanced budget faced with the prospect of a recession across the continent, and the likely need to come to the rescue of Italy and other weaker economies.
At home, the mood is bleak. “I want to emphasize, as I have been doing for a long time, that we are at the beginning of the epidemic,” Robert Koch Institute President Lothar Wieler said at a news conference. Almost 33,000 patients have been confirmed with the virus in Germany, according to data from regional health authorities compiled by Bloomberg. So far, 154 have died.