The human and economic toll of the lockdowns against the coronavirus mounted Thursday as India struggled to feed the multitudes, Italy shut down most of its industry, and the U.S. surpassed the official Chinese government numbers to become the country with most reported infections.
As the number of cases worldwide reached a half-million and deaths climbed past 23,000, the damage to people's livelihoods and their well-being from the effort to flatten the rising curve started to come into focus.
In India, where the country's 1.3 billion people were under orders to stay home, legions of poor were suddenly thrown out of work, and many families were left struggling for something to eat.
“Our first concern is food, not the virus,” said Suresh Kumar, 60, a bicycle rickshaw rider in New Delhi whose family of six relies on his daily earnings of 300 rupees, or $4. “I don't know how I will manage.”
India has the world's second-highest number of people living in extreme poverty. Rickshaw drivers, produce peddlers, maids, day laborers and other low-wage workers form the backbone of the economy, and many live day to day on their pay and have no savings to fall back on.
The Indian government announced a 1.7 trillion rupee ($22 billion) economic stimulus package that will deliver monthly rations of grain and lentils to a staggering 800 million people.
Around the globe, the death toll rose to about 8,200 in Italy, 4,100 in Spain and 1,700 in France, including a 16-year-old. The U.S. had about 1,200 deaths, about 400 of them in New York state, the worst hotspot in the nation. Most of those victims were in New York City, where hospitals are getting swamped.
On Thursday, a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University showed the United States now had the most reported cases of any country, with more than 82,000. Italy and China, the latter of which was the origin of the outbreak late last year, both had more than 80,000.
Louisiana was quickly becoming another smoldering hotspot. The number of new cases there jumped by more than 500 Thursday, for a total of over 2,300, with 86 deaths, including a 17-year-old, the health department said. The higher infection numbers reflected an increase in testing.
Montana joined the growing list of U.S. states ordering residents to stay home to fight the virus' spread.
Italy, the eurozone's third-biggest economy and a major exporter of machinery, textiles and other goods, became perhaps the first Western developed nation to idle most of its industry, extending a shutdown on smaller, nonessential businesses to heavy manufacturers.
“We are entering a war economy,” said Vincenzo Boccia, president of industrial lobby Confindustria.
In other developments:
• In New York, the state's death toll jumped by 100 in one day, pushing the number to 385, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said. He added that experts expect the number to increase as critically ill patients who have been on ventilators for several days succumb to the virus.
“That is a situation where people just deteriorate over time,” Cuomo said.
Trump announced that he would visit Norfolk, Virginia, on Saturday to see off the USNS Comfort, the 1,000-bed hospital ship heading to assist New York in responding to the virus.
• China said it is temporarily barring most foreigners from entering as it tries to curb imported cases. Reports of new infections from inside the country have stopped.
• In the Mideast, Saudi Arabia announced a total lockdown on the capital, Riyadh, and Islam's two holiest cities, Mecca and Medina, in addition to a nationwide curfew. In the United Arab Emirates, authorities announced an overnight weekend lockdown and used drones to tell people to stay home.
• In Brazil, the country's governors are defying President Jair Bolsonaro over his call to reopen schools and businesses, dismissing his argument that the “cure” of widespread shutdowns is worse than the disease. As of Thursday, the country had more than 2,500 cases and 59 deaths.