Italy posts more grim coronavirus records as deaths, cases rise

Italy has more virus-related deaths than any other country in the world, with the latest death toll at 9,134.

    Members of the medical staff in protective suits treat patients suffering from COVID-19 in an intensive care unit at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan [Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters]
    Members of the medical staff in protective suits treat patients suffering from COVID-19 in an intensive care unit at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan [Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters]

    Italy has posted more grim records related to the new coronavirus, becoming on Friday the second country after the United States to overtake China in terms of infections as it announced almost 1,000 deaths in a day - a worldwide record since the epidemic began.

    Officials said the number of cases had risen to 86,498 in Italy, as 919 more people died in the space of 24 hours, bringing the total death toll to 9,132 - the world's highest.

    China has so far recorded 81,782 cases and 3,291 deaths.

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    Italy's 4,401 new contagions in one day mean a 6.6 percent daily increase that is consistent with the trend recorded in recent days.

    The gruesome milestones nevertheless came on the same day Italian health officials said they were seeing a slight slowing down in new positive cases, two weeks into a nationwide lockdown.

    The Civil Protection Agency noted that the cumulative death tally of 9,132 included 50 fatalities that actually occurred on Thursday in the northern Piedmont region, but whose notification arrived too late to be included in the official figures for March 26.

    Recoveries are up by about 6 percent to 10,950, while the number of intensive care patients - a closely watched figure given the shortage of hospital beds - has risen by 3.2 percent, to 3,732.

    In a rare, televised address to the nation, Italian President Sergio Mattarella warned that the European Union had to react before it was too late and should adopt new measures to confront the threat posed by the coronavirus,

    "New initiatives are vital, overcoming old ways of thinking that are now out of touch with the reality of the dramatic conditions facing our continent," Mattarella said on Friday.

    "I hope everyone fully understands, before it is too late, the seriousness of the threat faced by Europe."

    Meanwhile, Spain's Health Ministry reported another 7,800 infections overnight, lifting the total to 64,059. Deaths climbed by 769 to 4,858 - the world's second-highest toll after Italy's.

    Spain says 9,444 health workers have contracted the coronavirus - worryingly accounting for almost 15 percent of the total number of cases.

    "It's true that we have more deaths than what we saw yesterday, but it's also true that the percentage increase today is similar to that of the past three days and it appears there is a stabilisation," said Fernando Simon, the head of Spain's health emergency coordination centre.

    Europe is now the worst-hit continent.

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    SOURCE: News agencies