Coronavirus fatalities surge in Italy; 1.5 lakh-plus positive cases globally

Over 1.5 lakh infected by Coronavirus globally; jump in Italy's death toll
Police officers wear protective gear as they prepare to evacuate residents from a public housing building following the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, at Fu Heng Estate, in Hong Kong, China, Saturday. Photo: REUTERS/Tyrone Siu

Wuhan/Milan/Washington: The death toll in Italy's coronavirus outbreak rose to 1,441 on Saturday, up almost 14% from the 1,266 total reported a day earlier, the civil protection authority said on Saturday.

The total number of cases rose to 21,157 from 17,660, the authority said. Italy remains the worst affected country in Europe and second only to China, where the highly infectious virus first emerged.

The agency said 1,966 patients had recovered from the disease, which broke out in the north of the country on Feb. 21, compared to 1,439 the day before.

The number of patients in intensive care rose to 1,518 against a previous 1,328.

France will shut shops, restaurants and entertainment facilities from Sunday with its 67 million people told to stay home to help fight the rapid acceleration of the coronavirus in a country where the number of cases has doubled in 72 hours.

Over 1.5 lakh infected by Coronavirus globally; jump in Italy's death toll
A man, next to an Italian flag, takes part in a flash mob to raise morale as Italian government continues restrictive movement measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak, in Rome, Italy, Saturday. Photo: REUTERS/Alberto Lingria

The government had no other option, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe told a news conference after the public health authority said 91 people had died in France and almost 4,500 were now infected.

Britain's health ministry said the number of confirmed positive tests for coronavirus in the country rose to 1,140 on Saturday, a 43% increase from the figure of 798 given on Friday. As of Saturday morning, 21 people had died after testing positive for COVID-19 in Britain.

Spain had 193 coronavirus deaths and 6,250 cases so far.

The virus has infected more than 154,000 people worldwide and killed some 5,800 since it was discovered in China in December.

China reports 20 new cases, jump in 'imported' infections

China on Sunday reported 16 new imported cases of the coronavirus, the highest in over a week, as domestic cases dwindle in the country.

The National Health Commission said infections involving people arriving from overseas were reported in five provinces and cities including Beijing and Shanghai.

Only four new domestic cases were detected, all in Hubei province's capital Wuhan, where the virus first emerged in December.

There have now been 111 imported infections, with regions outside of Hubei reporting no new indigenous cases for the third day in the row, prompting fears that China's measures to contain the virus domestically could be undone by reintroduced outbreaks.

Another 10 people died, all in Wuhan, bringing the national toll from the disease in mainland China to 3,199.

More than 80,000 people have been infected.

Central Hubei was locked down in January, placing some 56 million people under quarantine, but the number of cases has declined in recent weeks.

Provincial authorities in Hubei Saturday loosened restrictions that had prevented people from leaving their residential compounds and villages freely.

Trump tests negative; US extends travel ban to Britain, Ireland

Donald Trump tested negative for the coronavirus, his doctor said on Saturday, as the US president extended a travel ban to Britain and Ireland to try to slow the spread of a pandemic that has shut down much of the daily routine of American life.

After White House officials took the unprecedented step of checking the temperatures of journalists entering the briefing room, Trump told reporters he took a test for the virus on Friday night. On Saturday evening, his physician, Sean Conley, said the results were negative.

The US president met with a Brazilian delegation last week, at least one member of which has since tested positive.

Trump said Americans should reconsider non-essential travel, and that his administration was also considering domestic travel restrictions.

Over 1.5 lakh infected by Coronavirus globally; jump in Italy's death toll
A man in a surgical mask walks by an illuminated flag of The United States as the coronavirus outbreak continued in Manhattan, New York City, New York, US, Friday. Photo: REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the country has recorded 2,226 case of the new coronavirus but has not yet reached the peak of the outbreak.

"This will get worse before it gets better," Surgeon General Jerome Adams said at the briefing. But, he added, "99% of people will recover and people need to know that."

Critics have accused Trump of focusing too much on markets, which on Friday saw the three major Wall Street indexes gain more than 9% after having had their worst day since 1987 on Thursday.

All three indexes were nevertheless down at least 8% for the week and about 20% below mid-February record highs.

At the briefing, Trump told reporters he was "honoured to see that the stock market set a record in a short period of time over a 45-minute period." He called it an "all-time record" that he hoped would be repeated daily.

"They said, 'Sir, you just set a record in the history of the stock market. That was pretty good. Those great companies that were there, they couldn't have been too unhappy about it ... They are all big, publicly listed companies, so they did a good job," he said before turning the microphone over to Vice President Mike Pence, who is running the White House's response to the outbreak.

Pence said the administration was extending to Britain and Ireland travel restrictions that were first imposed on China and expanded this week to continental Europe.

Visits to nursing homes were being suspended to protect the most vulnerable. A nursing home in Washington state has been the site of most of the US deaths caused by the coronavirus.

Earlier on Saturday, officials in New York said an 82-year-old woman became the state's first coronavirus fatality.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the woman, who had previously suffered from emphysema, was hospitalized on March 3. He told reporters that the state's tally of cases had risen to 524. Nationwide, at least 52 people have died.

Shelves picked clean

The pandemic has forced public schools, sports events and cultural and entertainment venues to close across the United States.

American shoppers picked grocery store shelves clean of products ranging from disinfectants and toilet paper to rice and milk, causing retailers to race to restock their stores. In response to the run on certain items, major retailers have imposed some purchase limits. On Saturday morning, about 500 people were lined up for two blocks outside a Costco in Garden Grove, California, waiting for the store to open.

Long lines of shoppers were reported outside food stores in other parts of the United States.

On Friday, Trump declared a national emergency in a move that he said would bring "the full power of the federal government" to bear on the escalating health crisis by freeing up some $50 billion in aid. He also urged every state to set up emergency centers to help fight the virus.

Early on Saturday, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed a coronavirus aid package that would provide free testing and paid sick leave, in a bid to limit the economic damage from the outbreak.

Economists say the impact of the outbreak on businesses could tip the US economy into recession.

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