Coronavirus: Italy’s death toll overtakes China’s

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Coronavirus has killed more people in Italy than in any other country, after deaths there rose by 427 in a day.

The number of deaths now stands at 3,405, which is more than in China where the virus originated last year.

There have been 3,245 reported deaths in China, but there have been questions over the reliability of its data.

A lockdown imposed on 12 March in Italy has been extended beyond the original 25 March end date. Nearly all Italians have been told to stay at home.

Despite these measures, the number of new cases and deaths has continued to spiral.

There have been 220,000 cases of the virus worldwide with more than 9,000 deaths.

China confirmed it had no new domestic cases on Wednesday for the first time since the outbreak began, a major milestone.

But it reported 34 new cases among people who had recently returned to the country.

The number of cases in China – more than 81,000 – is still far higher than in Italy, which has 41,035.

What’s the latest in Italy?

Italy shut down most businesses and banned public gatherings nationwide on 12 March as it tried to halt the spread of the virus.

Bars, restaurants and most shops have closed, as have schools and universities.

The lockdown has been extended, and Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said it had helped prevent “the collapse of the system”.

But he told the Corriere della Sera newspaper that “we will not be able to return immediately to life as it was before” even when the measures were ended.

Media captionVenice’s canals look clearer after lockdown

A report by the Istituto Superiore di Sanita into the deaths in Italy of 2,003 people confirmed to be positive for coronavirus found that three regions, all in the north, were by far the worst hit.

Some studies point to the large number of elderly in the affected regions, and that a large proportion of 18-34s live at home with them. Different demographics in other nations may have helped to keep the death toll lower.

What about the rest of Europe?

The European Central Bank (ECB) has launched an emergency €750bn ($820bn; £700bn) package to ease the impact of the pandemic, with boss Christine Lagarde tweeting “there are no limits” to its commitment to the euro.

France began its lockdown on Tuesday morning. It requires citizens who are in public places to carry official paperwork stating why they are not at home or face a fine.

Interior Minister Christophe Castaner told Europe 1 radio on Thursday that the lockdown might be extended beyond the originally stated 15 days.

He said 4,095 fines had been handed out to transgressors and 70,000 control checks made since Wednesday morning. The fine is €135 ($150; £123).

“Some people think they’re some kind of modern-day hero when they break the rules – but they’re imbeciles, and a danger to themselves,” Mr Castaner said.

Media caption The BBC’s Laura Foster explains how you can recognise the symptoms of coronavirus.

Elsewhere, the number of deaths in Spain rose by 209 in a single day. The number of infected people there rose by 3,431, reaching 17,147.

Spain is the world’s fourth-worst affected country and is under nationwide lockdown.

Germany has not imposed stringent measures, although it has closed schools and many businesses and public spaces. But a speech by Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday appeared to be a final warning to avoid mandatory lockdowns.

“The situation is serious. Take it seriously,” she said.

The UK has also not imposed stringent lockdown measures as yet but has announced schools will close. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he could not give any date for when they might reopen.

London is the worst-affected area in the UK and has now begun to slim down transport services.

But the prime minister’s spokesman said the government had no plans to bring in blanket travel restrictions for London or shut down the city’s transport system.

“There is zero prospect of any restriction being placed on travelling in or out of London,” he told reporters.

In other developments:

  • Asian countries such as South Korea, China and Singapore were told to expect a second wave of infections from people returning home
  • In hard-hit Iran, the authorities urged people to stay home for Nowruz (Persian New Year) instead of going to public celebrations
  • Australia and New Zealand closed their borders to non-residents
  • EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier tested positive for virus, but said he was “doing well and in good spirits”
  • US President Donald Trump signed a $100bn (£85bn) bill to cover free testing and some paid sick leave, and said he would move to rush the development of treatments “as fast as it can possibly be done”
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