Coronavirus: Italy records over 1,000 deaths from Covid-19

Justin Trudeau self-isolates while Donald Trump shrugs off exposure to virus

Pigeons gather on Piazza del Duomo by Milan’s cathedral in northern Italy on March 10th.Photograph: Miguel Medina/AFP

Italy, the centre of Europe’s coronavirus pandemic, has hit the milestone of 1,000 deaths since it saw its first cases of the Covid-19 virus in mid-February.

On Thursday, the country registered 15,113 confirmed cases and the death toll hit 1,016. More than half of those who are in intensive care in Italy are located in Lombardy province. Hospitals in Lombardy are overflowing with the dead.

Meanwhile, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau is quarantining himself at home after his wife exhibited flu-like symptoms amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Sophie Grégoire Trudeau returned from a speaking engagement in Britain and had mild flu-like symptoms, including a low fever, late on Wednesday night, Mr Trudeau’s office said. She is being tested for the Covid-19 coronavirus and is awaiting results. Her symptoms have since subsided.


The latest news comes as the UK moves on to the next stage of its response to the coronavirus outbreak, as experts and politicians accepted the virus could no longer be contained.

The shift, which could see restrictions imposed in an effort to delay the spread of the disease, was confirmed by Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon following a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee chaired by British prime minister Boris Johnson. The move came as two more deaths were announced in British hospitals and the number of people who had tested positive for coronavirus in the UK reached almost 600. Ten people have now died in the UK after testing positive for Covid-19.

Britain’s biggest telecoms group BT said its chief executive, Philip Jansen, tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday.

US president Donald Trump on Thursday said he was not concerned about being exposed to the coronavirus after dining last week with Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and a government official who has since tested positive for the virus. The day after announcing curbs on travel to the US by EU residents, Mr Trump brushed off concerns about his possible exposure to the virus, which has sickened more than 126,000 people in a worldwide pandemic. “Let’s put it this way: I’m not concerned,” Mr Trump told reporters while meeting with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar in the Oval Office.

Brazilian officials on Thursday confirmed that Mr Bolsonaro’s communications secretary, Fabio Wajngarten, has the coronavirus and is now under quarantine at his home.

The US Congress is shutting the Capitol to the public until April in reaction to the spread of Covid-19, officials announced.

Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency for New York City, saying the city would work with the state to enforce its decree against gatherings of more than 500 people to combat the coronavirus outbreak.

First deaths

On Thursday, Norway and India both reported their first deaths from the virus.

Spain’s lower house of parliament decided to close down for at least a week after far-right Vox politician Javier Ortega Smith was diagnosed with the virus. His party leader Santiago Abascal later tweeted that he had also tested positive for Covid-19.

The Czech Republic will close its borders to travellers crossing from Germany and Austria and also ban the entry of foreigners coming from other countries to contain the coronavirus outbreak, prime minister Andrej Babis said on Thursday.

Czechs will also be barred from travelling to those countries effective from Saturday. Those countries include Italy, Sweden, France, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain and Denmark, and also Britain, Switzerland, Norway, China, South Korea and Iran.

The European Commission has decided to require most of its staff to work from home from Monday, March 16th, due to the coronavirus, the president of the EU executive told employees in a video recording on Thursday.

“As of Monday, all colleagues in non-critical functions will have to telework,” European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen told staff.

About 32,000 people are employed by the European Commission, mainly in Brussels but also in Luxembourg. Ms Von der Leyen said six commission staff members have tested positive for the virus.

France will from next week close all creches, schools and universities to try to curb the spread of the coronavirus, president Emmanuel Macron said in a televised address.

People watch the speech of French president Emmanuel Macron on a mobile phone, outside Paris, France. Photograph: Yoan Valat/EPA

Describing the outbreak as France’s biggest public health crisis in a century, Mr Macron said, however, that municipal elections scheduled for this weekend should go ahead.

Belgium’s government on Thursday ordered schools, cafes, restaurants and some shops to close due to the coronavirus. Portugal also ordered all schools to close, until further evaluation on April 9th.

Greece’s health ministry on Thursday said nightclubs, gyms, cinemas and theatres would be closed for two weeks as a precaution to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Two of the premier tourist attractions in the Netherlands, the Rijmsmuseum national gallery and the Van Gogh museum, closed their doors to the public on Thursday as a government ban on gatherings of more than 100 people was imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic.


The global coronavirus pandemic could be over by June if countries mobilise to fight it, a senior Chinese medical adviser said on Thursday.

China has declared the peak had passed there, and new cases in Hubei province fell to single digits for the first time.

Around two-thirds of global cases of the coronavirus have been recorded in China’s central Hubei province, where the virus first emerged in December. But in recent weeks the vast majority of new cases have been outside China.

Elderly people wait for the distribution of free face masks in Sham Shui Po district in Hong Kong. Photograph: Jerome Favre/EPA

Chinese authorities credit strict measures they have taken, including placing Hubei under near total lockdown, with preventing big outbreaks in other cities, and say other countries should learn from their efforts.

“Broadly speaking, the peak of the epidemic has passed for China,” said Mi Feng, a spokesman for the National Health Commission.

“The increase of new cases is falling.”

Zhong Nanshan, the Chinese government’s senior medical adviser, said at a news conference on Thursday that as long as countries take the outbreak seriously and are prepared to take firm measures, it could be over worldwide in a matter of months.

“My advice is calling for all countries to follow WHO instructions and intervene on a national scale,” he said. “If all countries could get mobilised, it could be over by June.”

Mr Zhong (83), an epidemiologist renowned for helping combat the Sars outbreak in 2003, said viruses in the same family typically become less active in warm months, which could help slow the spread.

“My estimate of June is based on scenarios that all countries take positive measures. But if some countries do not treat the infectiousness and harmfulness seriously, and intervene strongly, it would last longer.”

Elsewhere, Norway is set to announce the closure of all kindergartens and schools to curb the spread of the coronavirus, following a similar step by neighbouring Denmark, news agency NTB reported on Thursday.

Iran on Thursday reported 75 new deaths from the coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said, bringing the death toll to 429 in the worst-hit country in the Middle East.

“We have identified 1,075 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, meaning that there are 10,075 infected people in the country. The death toll is 429,” health ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur told state television.

The outbreak has infected a host of senior officials, politicians, clerics and members of the elite Revolutionary Guards in Iran, the fourth worst-affected nation after China, South Korea and Italy.

At least seven officials and politicians have died since February 19th, when Iran announced first infections and two deaths from the virus.

Iran’s clerical rulers have been struggling to contain the spread of the virus, despite the closure of schools and universities and the suspension of religious, cultural and sports events across the country.

Iranian officials have repeatedly urged people to avoid unnecessary trips and stay at home. – Agencies