Lockdown in the region of Lombardy has been tightened as Italy confirms more than 53,500 cases of coronavirus.

Sports and other physical activities outside have been banned, even if a person is exercising alone, and using vending machines is also forbidden.

The number of people in Italy to have died from the disease is approaching 5,000, just days after it overtook China as the nation to register most deaths from the highly contagious respiratory illness.

Officials said a further 739 coronavirus patients have died in a single day, taking the total number to 4,825.

The increase of 19.6% was by far the biggest daily rise since the outbreak emerged in the country a month ago.

The rise in the number of infections from 47,021 to 53,578 is an increase of 13.9%, the Civil Protection Agency said.

A team of 65 Cuban doctors and nurses with experience in battling Ebola will arrive in the hard-hit Lombardy town of Cremona on Sunday ready to help.

Doctors and nurses of Cuba’s Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade are heading to Italy to help

In other coronavirus news around the world:

  • German Chancellor Angela Merkel is expected to hold a phone conference with the premiers of Germany’s 16 federal states to discuss a full lockdown
  • The German cities of Freiburg and Leverkusen have already announced lockdown plans, with Freiburg’s having started on Saturday, banning citizens from public places, including parks
  • The number of cases in Switzerland has risen 25%
  • Spain has recorded almost 5,000 new cases in 24 hours, becoming the third most infected country in the world
  • India has started a 14-hour curfew and ban on international flights to curb coronavirus spread as 315 people have contracted the disease
  • Sri Lanka police detained 291 people for breaching a three-day curfew imposed to contain the virus
  • Thailand reported 188 new infections on Sunday, its largest daily increase, taking the total to 599 cases
  • Colombia’s health ministry said the country’s first coronavirus death was a 58-year-old taxi driver
  • The number of sufferers in Africa passed 1,000, with cases in at least 40 of Africa’s 54 countries
  • In France, the health ministry announced there were a further 112 deaths from coronavirus, bringing the total to 562
  • In the Russian capital of Moscow, workers are rushing to build a clinic to treat hundreds of people

Lines in front of a supermarket close to Bologna downtown in Italy
Queues for a supermarket in Bologna

The pandemic has infected more than 300,000 people worldwide and killed more than 13,000.

Also known as COVID-19, the illness causes mild or moderate symptoms in most people, though severe symptoms are more likely in the elderly or those with existing health problems.

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More than 92,000 people have recovered from the infection so far, most of them in China.

Intensive care ward in hospital in Lombardy, Italy

‘It’s a war, it’s a disaster’ – Lombardy hospital struggles to cope

Italy’s health minister Roberto Speranza said he was concerned that too many people were ignoring lockdown restrictions that were imposed nearly two weeks ago in an attempt to slow down the spread of the virus.

Giuseppe Sala, the mayor of Milan, the capital of Lombardy, attempted to rally Milan’s 1.4 million citizens, tweeting: “By now, we have understood, this is a marathon, not a sprint.”

With around 23% of people aged over 65, Italy has the oldest population in the world after Japan.

Medical experts say these demographics could explain why the number of dead in Italy is so much higher than the rest of the world.

The national health institute said the average age of those who died was 78.5 years, with the youngest victim 31 and the oldest 103 in its most complete analysis of the outbreak – which is yet to be published.

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