The death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in Italy has climbed by 727 to 13,155, the country’s civil protection agency said on Wednesday, a significantly smaller increase than seen on Tuesday and the lowest daily tally since March 26th.
However, the number of new cases rose more sharply than a day earlier, growing by 4,782 against a previous 4,053, bringing total infections since the outbreak came to light on February 21st to 110,574.
In Lombardy, the epicentre of the outbreak, the daily tallies of deaths and cases were both up compared with those of the day before, reversing the recent trend.
Of those originally infected nationwide, 16,847 had fully recovered on Wednesday, compared to 15,729 the day before. There were 4,035 people in intensive care, up from a previous 4,023.
Italy has registered more deaths than anywhere else in the world and accounts for around 30 per cent of all global fatalities from the virus.
France became the fourth country to pass the 4,000 coronavirus deaths threshold on Wednesday, after Italy, Spain and the United States, as the government scrambles to stay ahead of the curve regarding ventilator-equipped beds that are quickly filling up.
French health authorities reported 509 new deaths from the disease, taking the total to 4,032. But, after speeding up the previous two days, the rate of increase of deaths has decelerated in France, which is now in its third week of lockdown to try to slow the spread of the virus.
Speaking by videoconference in front of a parliament committee created to hold the government accountable for the way it handles the crisis, French prime minister Edouard Philippe said the lockdown would likely be unwound gradually rather than in one go.
The government has ordered people to stay in their homes except for essential travel from March 17th until at least April 15th.
“It is likely that we are not heading towards a general de-confinement in one go and for everyone,” Mr Philippe said without indicating when the government might start to ease or completely lift the lockdown.
France has increased the number of beds in intensive care units from 5,000 to about 10,000 since the start of the crisis and it is aiming to reach 14,500 as soon as possible.
“We are coping with a highly exceptional pandemic, that has an unprecedented impact on our health system. A deadly pandemic, with a very contagious virus”, the French health authority said.
UK and Spain
Meanwhile, the UK has experienced its biggest day-on-day rise in coronavirus-related deaths.
Some 2,352 patients had died in hospital after testing positive for the virus as of 5pm on Tuesday, the UK’s department of health said, up by 563 from 1,789 the day before.
It comes as Downing Street said more than 2,000 health service staff have been tested for coronavirus as the British government faces intense scrutiny over its policy on testing.
The government has blamed a global lack of reagents needed to carry out tests, though the chemical industry in the UK suggested there were no shortages.
Spain has also reported a new record of 864 deaths in one day while total infections broke the 100,000 mark, making it the third country to surpass that milestone behind the United States and Italy.
Spanish health authorities said on Wednesday that the total number of deaths reached 9,053 since the beginning of the outbreak. Total infections hit 102,136.
In other developments on Wednesday:
- New polling has shown significant public support for Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte and his cabinet, with confirmation that the lockdown in the Netherlands will continue until the end of April at least.
- The COP26 climate summit that had been due to take place in Glasgow in November has been postponed to 2021.
- China's national health commission has reported 36 new Covid-19 cases, one day after announcing that asymptomatic cases will now be included in the official count.
- Japan has banned entry from 49 more countries, including Ireland, the US, Canada, all of China, South Korea and seven Southeast Asian countries.
- Russia has sent a planeload of medical aid to the US due to the growing coronavirus pandemic. The delivery follows a phone call between Russian president Vladimir Putin and US president Donald Trump on Monday.
The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) voiced deep concern on Wednesday about “the rapid escalation and global spread” of Covid-19 cases from the coronavirus, which has now reached 205 countries and territories.
WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that his agency, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) backed debt relief to help developing countries cope with the pandemic’s social and economic consequences.
“In the past five weeks there has been a near-exponential growth in the number of new cases and the number of deaths has more than doubled in the past week,” Mr Tedros told a virtual news conference in Geneva where the UN health organisation is based.
“In the next few days we will reach 1 million confirmed cases and 50,000 deaths worldwide,” he said.
The UN had earlier on Wednesday warned that the world faces the most challenging crisis since the second World War.
UN secretary general Antonio Guterres said the world was confronting a pandemic threatening people in every country, one that will bring a recession "that probably has no parallel in the recent past".
There is also a risk that the combination of the disease and its economic impact will contribute to “enhanced instability, enhanced unrest, and enhanced conflict”, the UN chief said at the launch of a report on the socioeconomic impacts of Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus.
Mr Guterres called for a much stronger and more effective global response to the coronavirus pandemic and to the social and economic devastation that Covid-19 is causing.
He stressed that “we are still very far from where we need to be to effectively fight Covid-19 worldwide and to be able to tackle the negative impacts on the global economy and the global societies”.
He said many countries are not respecting WHO guidelines and added that the developing world needed greater assistance to fight the disease and its social and economic affects.
The coronavirus pandemic has infected more than 900,000 people worldwide and more than 38,000 deaths have been recorded. Officials in the US warned the disease could kill between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans, even if people continue to stay at home and limit their contact with others. - Agencies