Half a million people worldwide have now been infected by the coronavirus.

The milestone was reached as Italy reported 6,153 new cases, taking its total to 80,539.

Italy is now fewer than 1,300 cases behind China – where COVID-19 first emerged in December.

China stands at 81,782, according to Johns Hopkins University, but has seen a huge slowdown in new cases as the disease widens its spread across Europe and the US.

There are now 75,233 confirmed coronavirus cases in the US, 56,197 in Spain and 43,646 in Germany, rounding out the top five countries globally.

The Italian Civil Protection Agency announced the country’s latest infection numbers on Thursday – the biggest daily increase in the number of cases since 21 March.

Of those originally infected nationwide, 10,361 are now said to have fully recovered – up from 9,362.

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There are 3,612 people in intensive care, up from a previous 3,489, and the hardest-hit northern region of Lombardy reported a steep rise in fatalities compared with Wednesday and remains in a critical situation.

Lombardy has now reported 4,861 deaths and 34,889 cases, up from 4,474 and 32,346 on Wednesday.

Italy remains the country with the highest number of total deaths from COVID-19, now with 7,503.

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Elsewhere, there have now been 4,145 fatalities in Spain after a rise of 655 in 24 hours.

That puts it above the 3,169 deaths in China’s Hubei province – the original epicentre of the outbreak.

Iran has reported 2,234 deaths and France has confirmed 1,331.

No other countries have a death count in four figures, with the UK next along with 578.

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