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Italy virus deaths top China as UN warns of global recession

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Italy’s Covid-19 death toll has now surpassed China’s and Iran says the virus is killing one person there every 10 minutes, as the UN warns of a possible global recession “perhaps of record dimensions”.

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The pandemic has now infected almost 228,000 people and killed more than 9200.

In Italy, 3405 people have now died since the outbreak surfaced on February 21 – more than in mainland China, where the outbreak began in December.

So many have died in the northern Italian town of Bergamo that the army has been called in to help move bodies away.

A total 427 deaths were registered in Italy in the past 24 hours.

China has recorded 3,245 deaths since early January.

However, Italy has far fewer confirmed cases – 41,035 as of Thursday against 80,907 in China.

Italy’s large elderly population, who are particularly vulnerable to the virus, is also seen as factor for the high number of fatalities.

“We’re working in a state of very high stress and tension,” said Daniela Confalonieri, a nurse at a hospital in Milan, the capital of the wealthy northern region of Lombardy, which has been the epicentre of the epidemic.

“Unfortunately we can’t contain the situation in Lombardy. There’s a high level of contagion and we’re not even counting the dead any more,” she said.

The government announced late Thursday it was putting together a 300-strong team of medical volunteers from the rest of the country to reinforce to the worst-affected areas.

Iat would further restrict the limited amount of outdoor movement currently permitted.

Police across Italy have stopped more than 1.2 million people in the past week and booked about 51,000 for violating quarantine rules, the interior ministry said on Thursday.

Corriere della Sera newspaper quoted Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte as saying the government would extend the deadline on emergency rules closing schools and many businesses.

The measures currently order most shops to stay shut until at least March 25 and schools till April 3. He did not say how long schools would have to remain closed.

The virus has now spread to 172 countries and territories and more than 20,000 new cases were reported in the past 24 hours – a new daily record.

Croatia, Northern Ireland, Russia and Mexico reported their first deaths on Thursday, while Nicaragua, El Salvador and Chad reported their first cases.

Cases in Germany, Spain and Iran rose to more than 12,000 each, and Iran’s health ministry said the virus was killing one person in Iran every ten minutes, as its death toll climbed to 1,284.

But China reported zero new local transmissions, after introducing strict, ongoing containment measures.

Britain, which has reported 128 deaths, was closing dozens of underground stations in London and ordering schools shut from Friday.

About 20,000 soldiers were on standby, Queen Elizabeth headed for sanctuary in the ancient castle of Windsor and the Tower of London was to close along with other historical buildings.

“Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe,” the 93-year-old monarch said in an address to the nation.

“I am certain we are up to that challenge. You can be assured that my family and I stand ready to play our part.”

The United States reported more than 9400 infections across 50 states, with at least 151 dead.

India banned incoming international flights on Thursday, restricted public gatherings and blocked roads to Kashmir after the region reported its first infection.

Malaysian authorities are seeking around 2000 Rohingya for checks after they attended a Muslim gathering on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, with more than 670 cases in Southeast Asia linked to the gathering.

Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi, advised its residents to self-isolate at home until at least the end of March. The country has confirmed 76 cases, 10 of which emerged on Wednesday.

The Cannes film festival due to take place from May 12 has been postponed, while the F1 GP race at Monaco on May 24 has been cancelled, along with the other races in Netherlands and Spain.

New Zealand closed its borders to all foreigners from midnight on Thursday, while South Africa said it would build a fence along its border with Zimbabwe to prevent illegal immigrants from entering and spreading the virus.

Jordan’s army on Thursday sealed off the capital from the rest of the country as the kingdom puts its ten million inhabitants under a lockdown, while Egypt is shutting all cafes, malls, sporting clubs and nightclubs from today.

German manufacturers recorded the most precipitous drop in business expectations in the 70-year history of industrial surveys, preliminary figures showed on Thursday.

And the number of people in the US filing for unemployment benefits surged to a 2-1/2-year high last week as companies in the services sector laid off workers because of the pandemic.

UN chief Antonio Guterres warned that a global recession, “perhaps of record dimensions”, was a near certainty.

“This is a moment that demands co-ordinated, decisive, and innovative policy action from the world’s leading economies,” Guterres told reporters via a video conference.

“We are in an unprecedented situation and the normal rules no longer apply.”

The European Central Bank launched new bond purchases worth 750 billion euros ($A1.4 trillion). That brought some relief to bond markets and also halted European shares’ slide.

The US Federal Reserve rolled out its third emergency credit programme in two days, aimed at keeping the $US3.8 trillion money market mutual fund industry functioning. That helped Wall Street shares creep into positive territory after the worst sell off since the 2008 sub-prime crisis.

With some economists fearing prolonged pain akin to the 1930s Great Depression and others anticipating a bounce-back, gloomy data and forecasts abounded.

In one of the most dire calls, JP Morgan economists forecast the Chinese economy to drop more than 40 per cent this quarter and the US economy to shrink 14 per cent in the next, while ratings agency Moody’s prepared for mass downgradings.

-with AAP

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