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Coronavirus across Europe: Deaths in Italy surge by 793 in a day, Spain to boost testing

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Italian army soldiers patrol streets after being deployed to the region of Lombardy to enforce the lockdown against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Milan, Italy,  March 21, 2020. REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo

Italian army soldiers patrol streets after being deployed to the region of Lombardy to enforce the lockdown against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Milan, Italy, March 21, 2020. REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo

REUTERS

Italian army soldiers patrol streets after being deployed to the region of Lombardy to enforce the lockdown against the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Milan, Italy, March 21, 2020. REUTERS/Daniele Mascolo

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has leapt by 793 to 4,825, officials said on Saturday, an increase of 19.6pc - by far the largest daily rise in absolute terms since the contagion emerged a month ago.

On Thursday, Italy overtook China as the country to register most deaths from the highly contagious virus.

The total number of cases in Italy rose to 53,578 from a previous 47,021, an increase of 13.9pc, the Civil Protection Agency said.

The hardest-hit northern region of Lombardy remains in a critical situation, with 3,095 deaths and 25,515 cases.

Of those originally infected nationwide, 6,072 had fully recovered on Saturday compared to 5,129 the day before. There were 2,857 people in intensive care against a previous 2,655.

As coronavirus cases ballooned in Europe, several countries imposed or planned new restrictions to try to curb the spread. Britain told panic-buyers to calm down. California and three other US states directed tens of millions of people to stay at home.

Spanish authorities said on Saturday that they would boost coronavirus testing, potentially with the help of robots, as the toll in the country kept climbing, surpassing 1,300 deaths and reaching close to 25,000 cases.

Europe's second-worst outbreak showed no sign of improvement as the single-day death toll jumped over 300 people from the previous day. Intensive care units kept filling up at a hectic pace in some hospitals.

Health officials said cases were likely to keep increasing and said they did not know when a peak would be reached. But they praised restrictions imposed a week ago by the government, which declared a 15-day state of emergency nationwide barring people from all but essential outings.

"We believe the social distancing measures are going to have an effect," Maria Jose Sierra, a top official at Spain's health emergency committee, said at a press briefing.

The death toll jumped to 1,326 from 1,002 the day before, according to Health Ministry data released on Saturday. The number of cases rose to 24,926 from 19,980.

The death rate is around 5pc, Sierra said, but she suggested the real rate is lower as testing has mostly been conducted on people in hospital, meaning there are far more cases than registered.

But testing is set to increase - the government announced on Saturday it had acquired over 640,000 testing devices and said that number could quickly reach a million.

Raquel Yotti, director of Carlos III Public Health Institute, said the first devices were being distributed on Saturday and added the government was working on acquiring four robots that could bring the daily number of daily tests to 80,000. That would be up from 15,000-20,000 a day at the moment.

Robots are helpful as they can conduct automated testing, she said.

France reported 78 new deaths on Friday, taking the total to 450, an increase of 21pc - and Germany said they may enforce a nationwide curfew if the country's 83 million people fail to keep their distance from each other this weekend.

While in Britain, a further 53 people have died in England after testing positive for the coronavirus, bringing the total number of confirmed deaths to 220, the National Health Service said on Saturday.

The patients who died were aged between 41 and 94 and all had underlying health conditions.

Britain's National Health Service (NHS) will have more ventilators and thousands of extra beds and healthcare staff on hand from next week to fight coronavirus after it struck a deal with the independent hospital sector.

NHS England said on Saturday that nearly 20,000 fully qualified staff from the private sector will be joining the health service's response to the pandemic, helping manage an expected surge in cases.

On Friday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and gyms to shut their doors in a bid to slow down the accelerating spread of the virus.

"Under the agreement, the independent sector will reallocate practically its entire national hospital capacity en bloc to the NHS," said health minister Matt Hancock. "It will be reimbursed, at cost, meaning no profit will be made for doing so."

The deal includes the provision of 8,000 hospital beds across England, nearly 1,200 more ventilators, more than 10,000 nurses, over 700 doctors and more than 8,000 other clinical staff.

In London, it includes more than 2,000 hospital beds and over 250 operating theatres and critical beds.

"We're dealing with an unprecedented global health threat and are taking immediate and exceptional action to gear up," said NHS chief executive Simon Stevens.

Reuters