Italy in national mourning as world cases hit 800,000

Wednesday, April 1st, 2020 00:00 |
A police officer watches as people stand on marked circles to maintain social distancing as they collect a free dry ration in the wake of a nationwide lockdown in Pakistan, yesterday. Photo/AFP

Rome, Tuesday

Italy marked a minute of silence and flew flags at half mast Tuesday to mourn the 11,591 people who have died from the coronavirus pandemic that has drastically altered life in the country.

The nation of 60 million people has recorded nearly a third of all fatalities caused by the disease around the world.

The day of mourning marks a month in which Italy saw more deaths from a single disaster than at any time since World War II.

It was first detected in Italy near Milan in late February. Italy reported 812 deaths in the last 24 hours. 

As at Tuesday afternoon, the global coronavirus cases stood at 801,400 cases, with close to 38,000 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. Some 172,657 have recovered.

Tightened lockdowns across the planet saw nearly half of humanity told to stay at home in a bid to stem the spiralling coronavirus pandemic, as Spain recorded its deadliest day Tuesday and the US braced for the full impact of the disease. 

The health crisis is rapidly reorganising political power, hammering the global economy and the daily existence of some 3.6 billion people.

Spain, whose outbreak is the world’s second deadliest after Italy, broke another national record of 849 deaths in one day Tuesday, dampening hopes it could have  passed the peak of the crisis that has debilitated the country for weeks. 

In battered Italy, flags flew at half-mast during a minute of silence to honour those who have perished from the virus, and the health workers still working through nightmarish conditions. 

Although there are signs the spread of infections is slowing in Italy, hundreds are still dying every day, leading authorities to extend a stringent nationwide shutdown despite its crushing economic impact. 

In Belgium, a 12-year-old girl infected with Covid-19 was pronounced dead, a rare case of a young person succumbing to the disease, and yet another grim reminder of its reach. 

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson told his cabinet “the situation is going to get worse—but it will get better”.

Across the Atlantic, the US was preparing for its darkest days after the death toll topped 3,000 out of 163,000 known infections—the highest case count.

Scenes previously unimaginable in peacetime—such as a field hospital set to open in Central Park—shook frightened New Yorkers hunkered down in an eerily quiet city. 

A US military medical ship with 1,000 beds also docked in Manhattan to relieve pressure on the city’s overwhelmed health system.

President Donald Trump sought to reassure Americans that authorities were ramping up distribution of desperately needed equipment such as ventilators and personal protective gear.

But he also offered a stark warning, saying “challenging times are ahead for the next 30 days” as he acknowledged a potential nationwide stay-at-home order.

The number of cases in Iran has surpassed 44,000, with US sanctions complicating efforts to rein in the virus’ spread. France, Germany and the UK sent medical supplies to Iran.

The economic pain of lockdowns is especially acute in impoverished cities in Africa and Asia. -AFP

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