With 627 coronavirus deaths, Italy records highest toll in a day anywhere

Italy coronavirus deaths surge by 627, the highest single-day death toll for any country
A man wearing a mask with his dog as Italy remains under a nationwide lockdown in a government decree that orders Italians to stay at home, Naples, Italy. Photo: REUTERS/Ciro De Luca
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Milan/London: The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has leapt by 627 to 4,032, officials said on Friday, an increase of 18.4% – by far the largest daily rise in absolute terms since the contagion emerged a month ago.

On Thursday, Italy overtook China as the country to register most deaths from the highly contagious virus.

Until Friday, Italy had never recorded more than 475 deaths in a single day, while China, where the contagion has slowed sharply, has never reported more than 150.

The total number of cases in Italy rose to 47,021 from a previous 41,035, an increase of 14.6%, the Civil Protection Agency said.

The hardest-hit northern region of Lombardy remains in a critical situation, with 2,549 deaths and 22,264 cases.

Of those originally infected nationwide, 5,129 had fully recovered on Friday compared to 4,440 the day before. There were 2,655 people in intensive care against a previous 2,498.

Italy coronavirus deaths surge by 627, the highest single-day death toll for any country
Members of firefighters wear protective face masks, amid fear of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), as they disinfect the streets, ahead of the Iranian New Year Nowruz, March 20, in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday. Photo: WANA (West Asia News Agency)/Ali Khara via REUTERS

Worldwide deaths exceed 10,000

More than 252,700 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus across the world and 10,451 have died, with deaths in Italy surpassing the toll in China, where the outbreak began, according to a Reuters tally.

UN chief Antonio Guterres warned that a global recession, "perhaps of record dimensions", was a near certainty.

"This is a moment that demands coordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action from the world's leading economies," Guterres told reporters via a video conference. "We are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply."

Tourism and airlines have been particularly battered, as the world's citizens hunker down to minimize contact and curb the spread of the highly contagious COVID-19 respiratory illness. But few sectors have been spared by a crisis threatening a lengthy global recession.

The United States is urging Americans not to travel abroad at all and could announce restrictions at the US-Mexican border on Friday. They would be similar to the closure of the US-Canada border to non-essential traffic.

Markets have suffered routs unseen since the 2008 financial debacle, with investors rushing to the US dollar as a safe haven. Wall Street tried to bounce back on Thursday. The benchmark S&P 500 closed up 0.5%, still around 30% off highs reached last month. US oil prices posted their largest one-day gain ever, rising 25%.

Policymakers in the United States, Europe and Asia have slashed interest rates and opened liquidity taps to try to stabilise economies hit by quarantined consumers, broken supply chains, disrupted transport and paralysed businesses.

The virus, thought to have originated from wildlife in mainland China late last year, has jumped to 172 other nations and territories with more than 20,000 new cases reported in the past 24 hours - a new daily record.

Cases in Germany, Iran and Spain rose to more than 12,000 each. An official in Tehran tweeted that the coronavirus was killing one person every 10 minutes.

London lockdown?

Britain, which has reported 144 deaths, was closing dozens of underground stations in London and ordering schools shut from Friday.

Some 20,000 soldiers were on standby, Queen Elizabeth headed for sanctuary in the ancient castle of Windsor, and the Tower of London was to close along with other historic buildings.

"Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe," the 93-year-old monarch said in an address to the nation.

"I am certain we are up to that challenge," she added.

Supermarkets in many countries were besieged with shoppers stocking up on food staples and hygiene products. Some rationed sales and fixed special hours for the elderly, who are particularly vulnerable to severe illness.

Italy coronavirus deaths surge by 627, the highest single-day death toll for any country
Security personnel wearing face masks to contain the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) walk along a street outside the Forbidden City in Beijing, China, Wednesday. Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlin/File Photo

Solidarity projects were springing up in some of the world's poorest corners. In Kenya's Kibera slum, volunteers with plastic drums of water and boxes of soap on motorbikes set up handwashing stations for people without clean water.

Russia reported its first coronavirus death on Thursday.

Amid the gloom, China provided a ray of hope as it reported zero new local transmissions of the virus, a sign of success for its draconian containment policies since January. Imported cases accounted for all 34 new infections in China.

In the United States, where President Donald Trump had initially played down the coronavirus threat, infections surged with over 11,500 known cases and at least 186 deaths.

Trump has infuriated Beijing's Communist Party rulers by rebuking it for not acting faster and drawn accusations of racism by referring to COVID-19 as the "Chinese virus".

“We continue our relentless effort to defeat the Chinese virus," he said in opening remarks at a briefing on Thursday.

The head of the US National Guard said tens of thousands of its troops could be activated to help US states deal with the outbreak now in all 50 states.

COVID-19, which stands for Coronavirus Disease 2019, is the name of the disease caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 belongs to the Coronavirus family with crown-shaped spikes on its surfaces. The name of the disease was given by the World Health Organisation.

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