Coronavirus: Italy reports biggest daily jump in death toll

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A person fumigates a church in Naples, Italy, 06 March 2020Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Churches have been fumigated in Naples

The death toll from the new coronavirus in Italy has risen to 197 after the largest daily increase in fatalities there since the outbreak began.

Officials said 49 people had died in 24 hours, while more than 4,600 cases have been reported in total.

The country has now reported the most deaths outside of China, where the virus emerged in December.

The World Health Organization says more than 101,000 people worldwide have contracted the coronavirus.

More than 3,000 people have died - the majority in China.

WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called the spread of the virus "deeply concerning" and urged all countries to make containment "their highest priority".

What is happening in Italy?

Officials announced the record daily death toll in a statement on Friday.

They said the number could not be officially confirmed until health officials had "established the actual cause of death".

The national health institute said the average age of those who have died was 81, with the majority suffering from underlying health problems. An estimated 72% of all those who have died were men.

According to government data, 4.25% of individuals confirmed to have the coronavirus in Italy have died, the highest rate in the world.

The country has one of the world's oldest populations.

The government this week ordered the closure of all schools for 10 days as it battles to contain the outbreak.

All professional sport, including Serie A football matches, will also be played behind closed doors for a month.

The BBC's Rome correspondent Mark Lowen tweeted that a resident in the quarantined Italian town of Codogno told him the most upsetting thing for many people there was that funerals were not being permitted for coronavirus victims because of the need to limit gatherings.

"Priests are saying a couple of prayers - and that's it," he wrote.

Meanwhile, the Vatican - which reported its first case of the virus on Friday - says the Pope will deliver his Angelus address on Sunday via video, rather than from a window at the Vatican, to avoid drawing a large crowd.

The Pope, who has been suffering from a cold, recently tested negative for the coronavirus, Italian media reported.

Only China, South Korea and Iran have reported more coronavirus cases than Italy.

As of Saturday, South Korea has had 7,041 cases and 46 deaths. Iran has had about 4,740 cases and 145 deaths though these figures are believed to be underestimated.

What are the latest updates?

Florida reported two deaths on Friday, taking the US death toll to 16 with more than 200 confirmed cases. The other fatalities have been in the west-coast states of California and Washington State.

It came as US President Donald Trump signed an $8.3bn (£6.4bn) emergency bill to try to combat the outbreak.

In California, 21 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed on the Grand Princess cruise ship that is being held off the coast near San Francisco. The cruise liner is a sister ship of the Diamond Princess, which was the scene of a major coronavirus outbreak while moored in Japan.

US Vice President Mike Pence said the Grand Princess would be sent to a non-commercial dock over the weekend where all of its 3,533 passengers and crew would be tested.

Also in the US, the South by Southwest (SXSW) music and tech festival in Austin, Texas has been cancelled over growing concerns related to the outbreak.

In other developments:

  • Slovakia, Peru and Togo reported their first cases of the virus
  • A man in his 80s became the second person in the UK to die after testing positive for the coronavirus
  • The impact of the virus on China's economy and global supply chains was made clear by new figures showing Chinese exports fell by 17.2% in January-February from the same period in 2019
  • Scotland Women's Six Nations match with France at Glasgow's Scotstoun Stadium has been postponed after a home player contracted coronavirus
  • France became the latest country to announce school closures, which will affect the worst-hit areas in the country
  • Canada confirmed its first "community" case of a person who had not recently left the country and had no known contact with someone infected
  • A cruise ship was forced to turn away from Malta after doctors threatened industrial action if it docked

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