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Italy deaths approach 8000 as south warns of "10 days of hell"

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Italy’s death toll rose to 7503 overnight with 683 new fatalities, while the country’s south warned of a jump in cases if people flouted strict lockdown rules.

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Italy’s outbreak is concentrated in Lombardy, the region including Milan, but there are worries about cases escalating in the south.

“The next 10 days will be hell here. We are on the brink of a dramatic spread of the contagion,” the President of the Campania region, Vincenzo De Luca, wrote to the central government.

Campania includes Naples. Its governor accused the government of failing to deliver key equipment such as ventilators, masks and other medical gear needed to avoid a “tragedy” in the region.

The whole of Italy has been under lockdown since March 10. People can leave home only if they cannot work remotely, to buy food, medicines or run other urgent errands.

On Tuesday, the government raised fines for those who flout stay-at-home orders to up to 3000 euros ($A5430) or three months’ imprisonment.

The government also said anybody who does not go into quarantine after testing positive to the virus will face one to five years in prison.

But health officials are taking hope after the number of  newly-detected cases fell for the fourth day in a row.

On Tuesday, Italy’s daily case jump was 3612 and on Monday 3780, on Sunday 3957 and on Saturday a record 4821.

Recoveries were up by about 12 per cent to 9362 and the number of intensive care patients – a closely watched figure given the shortage of hospital beds – rose by only 2.7 per cent, to 3489.

“We are in an apparent stabilisation phase” of the contagion, Civil Protection Agency official Agostino Miozzo said.

“If we want to see this (contagion) curve stabilise and then start declining, it is absolutely indispensable to maintain rigorous social distancing.”

Spain death toll now second

Spain’s death toll shot up by more than 700 in a day to more than 3400. It has now eclipsed that of China, where the outbreak was first recorded, and is second only to Italy.

Spanish media reported that 23 residents of a Madrid retirement home died from COVID-19 or symptoms related to the virus.

The home’s management said it had been pleading for more staff and supplies, including virus tests, after 55 of its workers had been forced to take medical leave.

Spain is buying 432 million euros ($A784 million) of medical supplies from China, including 500 million masks, 5.5 million fast test kits and 950 ventilators.

“If we are not already at the peak, we are very close,” said Fernando Simon, head of Spain’s health emergency co-ordination centre. “I cannot say that we have reached it.”

Even once the numbers crest, it would be “counterproductive” to think about relaxing restrictions anytime soon, he added.

More than 435,000 people worldwide have been infected and the number of dead approaches 20,000, while more than 100,000 have recovered.

UK deaths climb

The number of coronavirus deaths in the UK has risen from 422 to 463, the British government says, adding that more than 9500 COVID-19 cases have now been reported in the country.

The total number of UK rose to 9529 on Wednesday, compared to 8077 cases on Tuesday.

The government is anticipating a peaking of coronavirus cases in Britain in the coming weeks and has appealed to manufacturers to supply the National Health Service with the appropriate requirements.

Britain had been in talks with over 3000 businesses about supplying ventilators to quickly increase the health service’s capacity.

The country’s existing stock of about 5000-8000 ventilators is inadequate if cases jump as predicted.

In the United States, infections were climbing rapidly and had passed the 55,000 mark, with deaths approaching 800.

New York infection warning

In the United States, infections were climbing rapidly and had passed the 55,000 mark, with deaths approaching 800.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said his state’s infections are doubling every three days, threatening to swamp the city’s intensive care units.

The state has 26,000 infections and more than 200 deaths.

“One of the forecasters said to me: ‘We were looking at a freight train coming across the country,'” Cuomo said. “We’re now looking at a bullet train.”

India has reported only about 450 cases because of limited testing but Prime Minister Narendra Modi warned that if he didn’t act now, the virus could set the world’s largest democracy back decades.

Everything but essential services like supermarkets were closed. Normally busy railway stations in New Delhi were deserted and streets were eerily silent.

But China’s Hubei province, where the outbreak was first spotted late last year, has begun lifting its month-long lockdown.

Some train stations and bus services reopened in Hubei, and people who passed a health check were allowed to travel for the first time since January.

-with AAP

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