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Deaths in Lombardy have risen sharply

Italy has recorded 969 new coronavirus deaths, its highest daily figure in the outbreak so far.

It means 9,134 people have now died from the virus in the country.

Earlier World Health Organization chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said a “chronic global shortage” of protective equipment was one of the “most urgent threats” to the ability to save lives.

Italy is the worst-affected in Europe. Almost everything has been closed and people told to stay at home.

Earlier on Friday, authorities warned that restrictions were likely to be extended beyond 3 April.

What is the latest from Italy?

The hardest hit northern region of Lombardy saw a sharp increase in deaths from Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, following a decline on Thursday that had raised hopes the outbreak there could have peaked.

Friday’s number also included 50 deaths recorded on the previous day in the north-western Piedmont region, but which were not submitted in time for Thursday’s update.

There were 4,401 new confirmed cases recorded, slightly lower than Thursday’s figure but still well up on the numbers from earlier in the week. There has been a total of nearly 86,500 confirmed cases in the country.

Fears are also growing of an increase in cases in the poorer south of the country.

On Thursday Vincenzo De Luca, president of the Campania region around Naples, said the central government had not provided promised ventilators and other life-saving equipment.

“At this point there is the real prospect that Lombardy’s tragedy is about to become the south’s tragedy,” he said.

The same day Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said all of Europe would be hit by a severe recession. He promised a second stimulus package for Italy worth at least €25bn (£23bn; $27bn).

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Pope Francis gave an “Urbi et Orbi” blessing in an empty St Peter’s Square

Every day is a struggle for Italians to take in the scale of this tragedy. It’s as if the country is losing the population of a village day after day. There have been 541 deaths just in the region of Lombardy in the past 24 hours. It’s staggering.

Although it is hard to see light at the end of the tunnel, there are grounds for it: the new infection rate is declining and the curve is flattening. But more than two weeks into the nationwide lockdown, progress is slow and uneven. And the awful news keeps coming: 46 doctors have now died since the outbreak began.

What’s clear is that the containment measures will have to be extended – possibly for months, says the national health council. That will cause anxiety not just here, where the lockdown is crushing the Italian economy, but around the world, where Italy’s restrictions are a model for many other countries.

Italy is a week or two ahead of most of Europe – both in the progression of the virus and in the lockdown. So what happens here will be closely watched elsewhere.

What is happening in Spain?

Spain – Europe’s second worst-hit country – has seen a sharp rise in the number of deaths but the rate of new infections was stabilising, officials said.

Confirmed cases rose to 64,059, a 14% increase compared with 18% a day earlier and 20% on Wednesday.

In 24 hours, 769 people died, a daily record, taking the total to 4,858. The Spanish government has extended the state of emergency until at least 12 April.

People’s movement are severely restricted and most shops and businesses closed.

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Spain’s health system has been under intense pressure as infections continue to rise

Across the country, the army has been deployed to deep-clean hospitals and other facilities – including some 900 nursing homes where at least 1,517 deaths have been recorded.

What is happening elsewhere in Europe?

In France, Prime Minister Édouard Philippe raised the alarm over an “extremely high wave” of new infections, saying the epidemic that started in the east was now in the Paris region.

Hospitals could reach saturation point around the capital within 24 to 48 hours, the Hospital Federation of France said. Some 1.2 million residents in the Paris area have left in the past week, according to data analysed by mobile phone company Orange.

The country had 29,155 confirmed cases and 1,696 deaths as of Thursday.

What about the rest of the world?

  • The US became the country with the largest number of confirmed cases, with more than 85,500 positive tests. Some 1,300 people have died nationwide from Covid-19. On Thursday, President Donald Trump said his team plans to release federal social distancing guidelines that may advise some regions to loosen restrictions
  • New York City is the current coronavirus epicentre in the US but there were signs the disease was rapidly spreading in New Orleans, Chicago and Detroit, where the mayor described the situation as “really concerning”

Coronavirus: More than 900 deaths in a day in Italy 1

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