An abandoned corpse lies on the sidewalk near in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Ecuador, with a population of 17 million, has over 3,500 confirmed cases of COVID-19, making it one of the worst-hit countries per capita in the region. Authorities said those figures were likely to be higher but most people are not being tested. Dead bodies lay on apartments for days as morgues and hospitals are overcrowded. Photo: Getty Images

US death toll catching Italy’s fast; Johnson on oxygen in ICU, but not intubated; US threatens India, Canada over mask and drugs; Germany accuses America of ‘piracy’ as China, Russia send supplies to New York

US cases spiral: The United States leads the world in total cases, but not yet in deaths. Total deaths topped 11,830 by 7am NZ time — compared with the 17,127 reported so far in Italy, which is perhaps a month further down the Covid-19 crisis path. (The Washington Post and John Hopkins University).

The caveat: There’s often a lag in reported cases and in many places testing is only scratching the service and suggesting a higher death. Some countries are reporting a slowing in cases, mainly Italy and Spain, while France says it has yet to see the peak and Japan declared a state of emergency.

Johnson on oxygen in ICU: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is on oxygen support, though apparently not intubated and on a ventilator after his condition worsened yesterday. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is a kind of interim PM, but without the full powers an acting premier might have. (The Guardian). Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said Johnson was fit and had a “zest and appetite for life”. UK cases topped 55,940 with deaths at 6,159 overnight.

Locked down for longer? Raab suggested that the UK’s 15-day-old lockdown may be extended when he said the government wasn’t ready to review it and he implied it would go on beyond Easter: “In terms of the review, we are not at that stage yet. We will take any decision when the time is right, based on the facts and the scientific and medical advice…The worst thing now would be to take our foot off the pedal, to ease up on that and risk losing the gains that have been made.” (The Guardian)

America First: In a set of decisions that suggest why there’s been no real Group of Seven or G-20 response to the crisis, President Donald Trump demanded India lift its ban on the export of the anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine under pain of “retaliation” (Business Insider), plus he banned the export of surgical-grade facemasks to Canada, a curb manufacturer 3M ultimately found a way around after pleas from the Ontario government. (National Post). Trump had threatened to “hit 3M hard”.

American ‘piracy’: The latest incidents follow the apparent diversion to the United States of protection equipment from Thailand destined for Germany, which a German minister described as “piracy”. Meanwhile, Russia and China have made much of their gestures to send equipment to New York.

Quote du jour: “It is really a Wild West when it comes to buying medical supplies right now,” Canada’s Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland said. “This is a global pandemic, and every country in the world is doing its best in a truly fierce competition to get medical equipment.” (National Post).

US soft power threatened – poll: A survey of people in America’s closest neighbours by Pew Research hints at the damage Trump’s approach has done to American “soft power”. Asked to describe the US in one word, Canadians chose “Trump” followed by “chaos”, “confused”, “bully” and “arrogant”. Mexicans used terms like “money” and “migration” then “discrimination” and “racism”. (SCMP)

‘You’re fired too’: Trump effectively fired the independent inspector-general assigned to oversee the $2 trillion Covid-19 support package. (The Washington Post). A week ago he fired another inspector-general in intelligence who had accepted evidence from a whistleblower about his call with the Ukrainian president that led to his impeachment. The whole system of inspector-generals is intended to limit the scope for corruption and political influence across government.

African countries, Turkey report escalating cases: In what may be the more hidden depths of the coronavirus crisis, African countries reported more than 10,000 cases, of which more than 1,700 were in South Africa, which is under a severe lockdown. (The Guardian). Turkey, the frontline of the refugee exodus from Syria, has reported the world’s fastest rate of new cases at 3,000 a day to a total of 30,217.

An author writes: Sometimes it takes a novelist to portray the full horror of a global crisis and for a big read that may make you stop in your tracks, Indian author Arundhati Roy, writes in The Financial Times about the threat to India and the rest of the developing world.

Across the globe but especially in places which in the past looked to the United States as a beacon, she suggests, people watch the news from the United States, “and we think to ourselves, “My God! This is America!”

Best quote du jour: The crisis, she says, may be Covid-19, but it is a crisis long in coming which questions the way the global economy and global affairs are run: “The tragedy is immediate, real, epic and unfolding before our eyes. But it isn’t new. It is the wreckage of a train that has been careening down the track for years.”

Peter Bale is a London-based journalist and media consultant who has worked for the Wellington Evening Post, Reuters, the FT Group, The Times of London, and CNN Europe.

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