Italy’s toll set to over­take China’s as dead­li­est day sees 475 fa­tal­i­ties

The Guardian - - World Coronaviru­s - Jon Hen­ley Paris Philip Ol­ter­mann Berlin

Italy suf­fered its dead­li­est day yet in the coron­avirus out­break yes­ter­day and the coun­try is poised to over­take China as the world’s worst af­fected coun­try, as Europe tight­ened a lock­down af­fect­ing some 250m peo­ple.

In all, 475 peo­ple died in the coun­try yes­ter­day tak­ing the over­all death toll to 2,978 from al­most 36,000 cases. Some 4,000 have re­cov­ered, with 2,250 in in­ten­sive care.

With an eco­nomic and so­cial shut­down deep­en­ing across Europe, An­gela Merkel last night de­scribed the coron­avirus cri­sis as “the big­gest chal­lenge since the sec­ond world war”.

In a rare TV ad­dress to the na­tion, Merkel ap­pealed to ci­ti­zens to help pro­tect each other from the virus by re­strict­ing so­cial in­ter­ac­tions. All state-run at­tempts to curb Covid-19 would prove fu­tile un­less in­di­vid­u­als changed be­hav­iour, she said.

“This is se­ri­ous, so take it se­ri­ously,” she said last night. “Since Ger­man re­uni­fi­ca­tion – no, since the sec­ond world war – there has been no chal­lenge to our coun­try that will re­quire us to act in such mu­tual sol­i­dar­ity.”

Merkel said her gov­ern­ment was fo­cused on “slow­ing down the spread of the virus, to stretch it out over months and thus win time”.

Among de­vel­op­ments yes­ter­day:

• The US and Canada are to tem­po­rar­ily shut the world’s long­est land bor­der to non-es­sen­tial traf­fic.

• The EU ac­cused Rus­sian me­dia of a “sig­nif­i­cant dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paign” against the west to worsen the im­pact of the coron­avirus.

• The head of Ger­many’s pub­lic health agency, Lothar Wieler, said the pan­demic was likely to take about two years to run its course and will in­fect 60%-70% of the global pop­u­la­tion.

• Ja­pan’s deputy prime min­is­ter, Tarō Asō, said hold­ing the Tokyo Olympics “would not make sense” if coun­tries could not send their ath­letes.

• Iran re­ported 147 more deaths, its sin­gle big­gest one-day jump, bring­ing the toll to 1,135 peo­ple na­tion­wide.

De­scrib­ing Covid-19 as “an en­emy against hu­man­ity”, Te­dros Ad­hanom Ghe­breye­sus, the World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion’s di­rec­tor gen­eral, said Africa must “wake up and pre­pare”. Coun­tries around the world must take a com­pre­hen­sive ap­proach, he said. “Coun­tries must iso­late, test, treat and trace,” Te­dros said, adding that strat­egy “must be the back­bone of the re­sponse in every coun­try”.

Coron­avirus has in­fected more than 214,000 peo­ple world­wide and killed more than 8,700, ac­cord­ing to the Johns Hop­kins Univer­sity tracker. More than 82,000 have re­cov­ered.

Out­side China, where the virus orig­i­nated, two-thirds of all cases and three-quar­ters of all deaths are in Europe, which has now recorded more than 3,800 deaths. Bel­gium, which has re­ported 1,085 cases of Covid-19 and 10 deaths, yes­ter­day be­came the lat­est EU state to con­fine its ci­ti­zens, with all shops ex­cept su­per­mar­kets, phar­ma­cies, banks and book­stores clos­ing at mid­day and em­ploy­ees ex­pected to work from home un­less so­cial dis­tanc­ing is guar­an­teed at work.

“These de­ci­sions were not taken lightly, and were taken be­cause we are obliged to by the evolv­ing sit­u­a­tion,” said the prime min­is­ter, So­phie Wilmès. “Suc­cess in our strug­gle against Covid-19 is in­ex­tri­ca­bly linked to the ef­forts of each per­son.”

In Ger­many, which has re­ported 12,000 in­fec­tions and 28 deaths, nonessen­tial busi­nesses and shops have shut, re­li­gious gath­er­ings are banned and hol­i­day travel has been halted.

In France, where the daily up­date of coron­avirus cases has risen to 7,730, with 175 deaths, res­i­dents who leave home must now carry with them a form declar­ing that they are out­side for one of five per­mit­ted rea­sons, in­clud­ing to shop, work or visit the doc­tor.

More than 100,000 po­lice are en­forc­ing the reg­u­la­tions, with the fine for peo­ple flout­ing them raised to €135 (£124). The health min­is­ter, Olivier Véran, said the coun­try could hope to start see­ing a slow­down of in­fec­tions in eight to 12 days.

Javier Mar­ion, di­rec­tor of health in the Aragon re­gion of Spain, broke down in tears dur­ing a news con­fer­ence, while the prime min­is­ter, Pe­dro Sánchez, told the 28 MPs and five min­is­ters in the near-empty 350-seat par­lia­ment the na­tion needed to rally in a “war” against the virus.

Spain, which has re­ported nearly 14,000 cases and 623 deaths, is – like Italy and France – in near-to­tal lock­down, and the con­se­quences for the econ­omy would be grave un­less “ma­jor and ir­repara­ble dam­age” could be averted, Sánchez said.

“We have never lived through any­thing like this,” he said.

‘This is se­ri­ous, so take it se­ri­ously. Since the sec­ond world war there has been no chal­lenge so large to our coun­try’

An­gela Merkel

Ger­man chan­cel­lor

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