Global anxiety over the coronavirus centered on Europe on Saturday, where Italy is bearing the brunt of the pandemic’s unceasing spread. Italian officials announced that 793 people had succumbed to the virus in a single day. The staggering number brought the nation’s total dead to more than 4,800, the most for a single country.
As death tolls mount across the continent, Italy has become a symbol of the enormous challenges facing public health authorities in Europe and in the United States, who are struggling to contain the virus. Eleven days into Italy’s nationwide lockdown, which includes travel restrictions and the closure of most stores apart from groceries and pharmacies, the number of confirmed cases still soared, with 6,557 new cases since Friday.
Hospitals and morgues were overwhelmed. The government has reported 53,578 total cases, concentrated in the northern part of the country. Italy’s struggle to keep up with the virus offered a glimpse into what U.S. health officials fear could be ahead in New York and elsewhere: shortages of respirators, basic medical equipment, and beds in intensive-care units.
The Italian region of Lombardy has introduced stricter measures in a bid to tackle the spread of coronavirus. Under the new rules announced late on Saturday, sport and physical activity outside, even individually, are banned. Using vending machines is forbidden.
The move comes as Italy reported nearly 800 coronavirus deaths on Saturday and saw its toll for the past month reach 4,825, the highest in the world. Lombardy is the worst-affected region in the country with 3,095 deaths. The region’s President Attilio Fontana announced the new measures in a statement. Businesses have been asked to close all operations excluding “essential” supply chains. Work on building sites will be stopped apart from those working on hospitals, roads, and railways.
Despite the measures introduced so far, the number of new cases and deaths has continued to grow.
There have been about 300,000 cases of the virus worldwide with 13,000 deaths.
What is happening elsewhere?
Spain’s health ministry has reported a 32% spike in new deaths from Covid-19 with 1,326 confirmed deaths, the second highest in Europe after Italy.
In a news conference on Saturday night, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez warned “the worst is yet to come” and that “very difficult days lay ahead”.
The government has issued a lockdown for some 46 million people who are only allowed to leave their homes for essential work, food shopping, medical reasons or to walk the dog.
A number of world leaders and political figures have told citizens to stick to rules.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned the UK’s National Health Service could be “overwhelmed” if people do not act to slow the “accelerating” spread of coronavirus. He called on people to join a “heroic and collective national effort” and follow social distancing advice.
Scotland’s Rural Economy and Tourism Secretary Fergus Ewing has called on people not to travel to the Scottish Highlands after reports of people in campervans trying to find solace from outbreaks elsewhere across the UK.
France’s Health Minister Olivier Véran hit out at those who flout directives on social distancing, describing them as “dangerous” and “irresponsible”. More than 12,500 people have caught coronavirus in France with the death toll recorded as 562 on Saturday.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo hit out at young people who he claims have been ignoring orders not to gather in groups. He said that he planned to visit a park “to see what the situation is myself”.
“I don’t care frankly. This is a public health issue and you cannot be endangering other people’s health,” he said. “You shouldn’t be endangering your own.”
Meanwhile in Australia, Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned the country could see lockdowns after images circulated of many people ignoring social distancing advice and flocking to beaches.