Bangkok Post

Italy, Spain suffer record deaths as infections soar

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>>ROME: Italy has logged a shocking spike in its coronaviru­s death toll, with officials warning the peak of the crisis was still days away, as the global infection rate surges upwards.

With more than 300,000 people infected in Europe alone, the disease shows few signs of slowing, and has already cast the world into a recession, economists say.

Italy recorded almost 1,000 deaths from the virus on Friday — the worst one-day toll anywhere around the world since the pandemic began.

One coronaviru­s sufferer, a cardiologi­st from Rome who has since recovered, recalled his hellish experience at a hospital in the capital.

“The treatment for the oxygen therapy is painful, looking for the radial artery is difficult. Desperate other patients were crying out, ‘enough, enough,”’ he said.

In one bright spot, infection rates in Italy continued their recent downward trend. But the head of the national health institute Silvio Brusaferro said the country was not out of the woods yet, predicting “we could peak in the next few days”. Spain said its rate of new infections appeared to be slowing — despite also reporting its deadliest day.

Europe has suffered the brunt of the crisis, with millions across the continent on lockdown and the streets of Paris, Rome and Madrid empty.

In Britain, the two men leading the country’s fight against the coronaviru­s

— Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Health Secretary Matt Hancock — both announced on Friday they had tested positive for Covid-19.

“I am now self-isolating, but I will continue to lead the government’s response via video-conference as we fight this virus,” Mr Johnson, who had initially resisted calls for a nationwide lockdown before changing course, wrote on Twitter.

Meanwhile, other countries across the world were bracing for the virus’s full impact, with tallies showing more than 26,000 deaths globally.

The World Health Organisati­on’s regional director for Africa warned the continent faced a “dramatic evolution” of the pandemic, as South Africa also began life under lockdown and reported its first virus death.

In a sign of how difficult the stay-athome order could be to enforce, hundreds of shoppers were trying to force their way into a supermarke­t in Johannesbu­rg on Friday, while the streets of a nearby township buzzed with traffic.

But as Europe and the US struggle to contain the pandemic, aid groups have warned the death toll could be in the millions in low-income countries and war zones such as Syria and Yemen, where hygiene conditions are already dire and healthcare systems in tatters.

“Refugees, families displaced from their homes, and those living in crisis will be hit the hardest,” said the Internatio­nal Rescue Committee.

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