The US death toll from coronavirus climbed past 3,500 on Tuesday, eclipsing China’s official count.

The deepening crisis in New York hit close to home for the governor, when he disclosed, teary-eyed, that his brother, CNN anchor Chris Cuomo, has become infected.

“Luckily we caught it early enough,” Andrew Cuomo said of his 49-year-old brother, now quarantined in his basement.

Virus Outbreak New York
A body wrapped in plastic is unloaded from a refrigerated truck at Brooklyn Hospital Centre in New York (John Minchillo/AP)

“But it’s my family, it’s your family, it’s all of our families. But this virus is that insidious, and we must keep that all in mind.”

Elsewhere around the world, hard-hit Italy reported that the infection rate appears to be levelling off and new cases could start declining, but that the crisis is far from over.

Spain struggled to fend off the collapse of its hospital system.

Russia moved to crack down on quarantine violations and “fake news” about the outbreak and China edged closer to normal as stores in the epicentre city of Wuhan began reopening.

Worldwide, more than 800,000 people have been infected and more than 40,000 have died, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Italy and Spain accounted for half the deaths, while the US had about 3,550 by midday, overtaking China’s official toll of about 3,300.

New York was the nation’s deadliest hotspot, with about 1,550 deaths statewide, most of them in New York City.

A 1,000-bed emergency hospital set up at the mammoth Javits Convention Centre began taking non-coronavirus patients to help relieve the city’s overwhelmed health system.

A Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds that arrived on Monday was expected to begin accepting patients on Tuesday.

The indoor tennis centre that is the site of the US Open tournament is being turned into a hospital as well.

Nearly 80,000 former nurses, doctors and others are already said to be stepping forward to help New York. The city also worked to bring in bring in 250 out-of-town ambulances and 500 paramedics to help its swamped system.

HEALTH Coronavirus
Coronavirus cases in Europe. See story HEALTH Coronavirus. Infographic PA Graphics

Figures on deaths and infections around the world are supplied by government health authorities and compiled by Johns Hopkins.

But the numbers are regarded with scepticism by public health experts because of different counting practices, a lack of testing in places, the numerous mild cases that have been missed, and perhaps government efforts to downplay the severity of the crisis.

For example, in Italy, where the death toll was put at about 12,400, the country’s emergency co-ordinator, Domenico Arcuri, acknowledged that officials do not know how many people are dying at home or in nursing homes.

Still, there was a glimmer of hope – Dr Silvio Brusaferro, head of Italy’s institutes of health, said that three weeks into a nationwide lockdown, the hardest-hit country in Europe is seeing the rate of new infections level off.

“The curve suggests we are at the plateau,” he said. But “arriving at the plateau doesn’t mean we have conquered the peak and we’re done. It means now we should start to see the decline if we continue to place maximum attention on what we do every day”.

Virus Outbreak New York
A Samaritan’s Purse crew and medical personnel work on an emergency field hospital in New York’s Central Park (Mary Altaffer/AP)

With the country’s health care system buckling under the pressure, a field hospital, built in just 10 days, was opened at the Milan fairgrounds.

“We made a promise and we kept it,” said the head of the project, former civil protection chief Guido Bertolaso, who ended up catching the virus and had to work from his hospital bed.

In Russia, MPs approved harsher punishments, including prison sentences of several years, for violating quarantine rules and spreading misinformation.

The chief doctor at Moscow’s top hospital for coronavirus patients said he tested positive, a week after shaking hands with President Vladimir Putin.

Spain reported more than 840 new deaths, pushing the toll above 8,000 and forcing Madrid to open a second temporary morgue after an ice rink pressed into service last week became overwhelmed.

Dozens of hotels across Spain have been turned into recovery rooms, and authorities are building field hospitals in sports centres, libraries and exhibition halls.

Virus Outbreak France
A worker wearing protective gears sprays disinfectant in Paris (Christophe Ena/AP)

Israel’s Defence Ministry said it has converted a missile-production facility into an assembly line for ventilators.

The US states of Michigan and Louisiana were running out of breathing machines, despite promises by the White House of more equipment. Mr Cuomo described the bidding for ventilators as like being “on eBay”.