September 24, 2020

Coronavirus: More than 900 deaths in a day in Italy

Italy has recorded 919 new coronavirus deaths, its highest daily figure in the outbreak so far.

It means 9,134 people have now died from the virus in the country.

Earlier World Health Organization chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a “chronic global shortage” of protective equipment was one of the “most urgent threats” to the ability to save lives.

Italy is the worst-affected in Europe. Almost everything has been closed and people told to stay at home.

Earlier on Friday, authorities warned that restrictions were likely to be extended beyond 3 April.

The northern region of Lombardy, the hardest hit in the country, saw a sharp increase in deaths from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. This followed a decline on Thursday that had raised hopes the outbreak there could have peaked.

There were 5,959 new cases nationwide – a slightly lower increase than Thursday’s figure. There has been a total of nearly 86,500 confirmed cases in the country.

Fears are also growing of an increase in cases in the poorer south of the country.

On Thursday Vincenzo De Luca, president of the Campania region around Naples, said the central government had not provided promised ventilators and other life-saving equipment.

“At this point there is the real prospect that Lombardy’s tragedy is about to become the south’s tragedy,” he said.

The same day Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said all of Europe would be hit by a severe recession. He promised a second stimulus package for Italy worth at least €25bn (£23bn; $27bn).

Pope Francis gave an “Urbi et Orbi” blessing in an empty St Peter’s Square
Every day is a struggle for Italians to take in the scale of this tragedy. It’s as if the country is losing the population of a village day after day. There have been 541 deaths just in the region of Lombardy in the past 24 hours. It’s staggering.

Although it is hard to see light at the end of the tunnel, there are grounds for it: the new infection rate is declining and the curve is flattening. But more than two weeks into the nationwide lockdown, progress is slow and uneven. And the awful news keeps coming: 46 doctors have now died since the outbreak began.

What’s clear is that the containment measures will have to be extended – possibly for months, says the national health council. That will cause anxiety not just here, where the lockdown is crushing the Italian economy, but around the world, where Italy’s restrictions are a model for many other countries.

Italy is a week or two ahead of most of Europe – both in the progression of the virus and in the lockdown. So what happens here will be closely watched elsewhere.

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