The number of deaths links to coronavirus in Italy has passed 4000, with 627 new fatalities reported today.
BBC Rome correspondent Mark Lowen said the increase in deaths was almost 50% more than yesterday.
“Italians don’t have time for these daily rises in deaths to sink in before another record is broken,” he said. “Unbelievable”.
Though the illness is mild in most people, the elderly are particularly susceptible to serious symptoms. Italy has the world’s second-oldest population, and the vast majority of its dead – 87% – were over 70.
Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, a virologist at Germany’s Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, offered another reason for Italy’s high death rate:
“That’s what happens when the health system collapses.”
There are desperate scenes in the north of the country, particularly in Lombardy as hospitals struggle to cope with the outbreak, CNN reports.
Italian nurse Daniela Confalonieri, who works in Milan, said the dead were no longer being counted.
“We’re working in a state of very high stress and tension,” she told Reuters.
“Unfortunately we can’t contain the situation in Lombardy, there’s a high level of contagion and we’re not even counting the dead any more.
“Look at the news that’s coming out of Italy and take note of what the situation really is like. It’s unimaginable.”
Soldiers have been called in to help enforce the lockdown in Italy.
Countries have gone into lockdown with citizens told to return home as the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic surpasses 10,000 worldwide.
Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began, offered a ray of hope with no new infections reported for a second day in a row and only 39 cases reported nationwide – all of them brought from the outside, the government said.
But the effects of a global economy grinding to a halt were beginning to show, from millions of unsold flowers rotting in piles in Kenya to the slow emptying of the world’s skies.
The UN chief warned of a looming global recession “perhaps of record dimensions.”
In a measure of how the fortunes of East and West have shifted, a Chinese red Cross official heading an aid delegation to Milan castigated Italians for failing to take their national lockdown seriously. Sun Shuopeng said he was shocked to see so many people walking around, using public transportation and eating out in hotels.
“Right now we need to stop all economic activity, and we need to stop the mobility of people,” he said. “All people should be staying at home in quarantine.”
In Australia, seven people have died with at least 849 infections in a number that is expected to rise significantly in the weeks ahead. Medical experts believe up to 80 per cent of the world’s population could eventually be infected with the disease.
China also sent medical equipment to the Czech capital, Prague, on Friday. Globally, governments are trying to balance the need to lock down residents with the need to keep food, medicine and other essentials flowing.
In Britain, the category of vital workers includes doctors, nurses and paramedics – and also vicars, truckers, garbage collectors and journalists.
French President Emmanuel Macron urged employees to keep working in supermarkets, production sites and other necessary businesses amid stringent restrictions of movement.
“We need to keep the country running,” Macron said.
Worldwide, the death toll from COVID-19 passed 10,000 and infections exceeded 244,000, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.
More than 86,000 people have recovered, mostly in China, but the pace is much slower than the spread of the virus. Recovery takes two weeks or so for mild cases but can be up to six weeks for those that turn serious, according to the World Health Organisation.
Italy surpassed China in deaths from the outbreak, and Iran’s official toll was rising quickly as well amid fears it is underreporting the scale of the pandemic.
Iran accused the United States of helping spread the virus by retaining sanctions that prevent it importing desperately needed medicine and medical equipment.
“While the US is trying to curb the virus internally, it is helping the spread of the virus externally,” Iran’s U.N. mission said in a statement.
Nations are imposing ever-stricter border controls and lockdowns to keep people at home and keep away outsiders, hoping to slow the spread of the virus while preparing for an onslaught of sick patients.
Italy was the first to act in Europe, and – despite the criticism from the Chinese official – other leaders held up Italians as an example to encourage their own citizens to endure far-reaching restrictions on public life.
Austria and Germany warned that they would continue at least through Easter. “We must not ease off. We must continue the measures we have taken,” said Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.
“This is a marathon. Everyone who goes along with the measures is a lifesaver.”
The Trump administration upgraded its already dire warning to Americans against all international travel, and the State Department announced new restrictions on the issuance of passports to US citizens.
In Morocco, several hundred Americans are scattered in cities around the country, sleeping on floors in the Marrakech airport, holed up in one of the last hotels open in Rabat and banding together on a Facebook group – U.S. Citizens Trapped in Morocco.
“The airport in Marrakech is crowded. People are touching shoulder to shoulder and many are sleeping on the floor,” said student Corrine Schmaedeke, who managed to get a ticket Thursday to fly home after eight cancellations.
“The U.S. Embassy did nothing to help us,” she said, adding that information was coming instead from the British Embassy.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the state needs to acquire thousands of ventilators, which would help the critically ill breathe, before the outbreak overwhelms hospitals. At a video conference with Trump, governors complained they were having difficulty obtaining such things as swabs and protective gear for doctors and nurses.
“We literally have people in China shopping for ventilators which is one of the largest manufacturers,” Cuomo said.
In California, Gov. Gavin Newsom said that if strong action wasn’t taken, 56% of the state’s 40 million residents could contract the virus over the next eight weeks. He expanded restrictions on non-essential movement outside of homes, saying it was necessary to control the spread of the virus, which was threatening to overwhelm California’s medical system.