AFP/Reuters/Rome/Berlin/Madrid/Paris Italy’s world-topping toll from the coronavirus pandemic approached 5,500 yesterday after the Mediterranean country reported another 651 deaths. The novel coronavirus causes the...


Italy’s world-topping toll from the coronavirus pandemic approached 5,500 yesterday after the Mediterranean country reported another 651 deaths.
The novel coronavirus causes the Covid-19 disease.
The latest daily toll was smaller than Saturday’s record 793 fatalities, but still the second-highest registered during Italy’s month-long crisis.
The number of new infections rose by 10.4% to 59,138.
Italy’s death toll now stands at 5,476.
“The figures announced today are lower than those for yesterday,” Italian civil protection service chief Angelo Borrelli told reporters. “I hope and we all hope that these figures can be borne out in the coming days. But do not let your guard down.”
Yesterday’s figures suggest that strict containment measures imposed around the northern epicentre of the crisis near Milan on March 8 might be starting to bear fruit.
Milan’s Lombardy region reported just 30.4% of the new infections yesterday.
It had been reporting about two-thirds of Italy’s coronavirus deaths throughout the month-long crisis.
The region of 10mn officially registered 55.5% of yesterday’s Covid-19 deaths.
Germany tightened curbs on social interaction yesterday, including a ban on public meetings of more than two people, to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
“The great aim is to gain time in the fight against the virus,” Chancellor Angela Merkel told a press briefing.
For at least the next two weeks, people will not be allowed to form groups of more than two in public unless they live together in the same household or the gathering is work-related, she added.
As part of a bundle of stricter rules, restaurants can only offer takeaway services and hairdressers and beauty, massage and tattoo parlours must close.
In Spain, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said yesterday that his government would ask parliament to extend for another 15 days until April 11 a state of emergency it imposed this month to try to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus.
The nationwide state of emergency was first announced on March 14, and it bars people in the nation of around 46mn people from leaving home except for essential outings like buying food or seeking medical care.
Sanchez said the request to extend the state of emergency would be approved by his cabinet tomorrow, and he is confident the assembly would approve it.
“I know that is a drastic measure … but experts agree that it is an effective measure in the fight against the coronavirus,” he told a news conference after holding talks via video conference with the heads of Spain’s regional governments.
The announcement comes after Spain announced 394 new deaths caused by the pandemic, raising to 1,720 the official death toll in Europe’s worst-hit country after Italy, a 30% increase over the previous day.
The number of confirmed cases of the disease rose by 3,646, or 14.6%, to 28,572, according to health ministry figures, straining Spain’s healthcare system.
Sanchez has said his country’s situation was now the most difficult since the 1936-39 civil war, and he warned that the outbreak would worsen.
“We must prepare ourselves emotionally and psychologically for very hard days ahead,” he told the nation in a televised address late on Saturday.
In France, the coronavirus outbreak claimed its first fatality among medical personnel, Health Minister Olivier Veran said yesterday, as the country prepares for an expected surge in cases.
The minister, who paid tribute to front-line medical staff during an appearance on LCI television, also said the country is counting on workers to keep essential services running despite the nationwide lockdown.
The deceased doctor was an emergency specialist working at a hospital in Compiegne, north of Paris, according to a Facebook post by one of his children, reported by public television.
“The medical profession is making a heavy sacrifice in our country today,” Veran said.
Separately, French supermarket retailer Auchan announced a €1,000 ($1,070) bonus to 65,000 of its staff for their work during the crisis, amid concerns over staffing in some critical areas of the economy and public services.
The government may roll out a tax-free coronavirus “attendance bonus” to citizens who are unable to work remotely and continue in their jobs, officials have said.
“We’re asking citizens to continue mobilising to keep our economy working,” Veran said. “Not for the sake of economic objectives or budgets, but because a single missing link can bring down the entire production system.”

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