Italian coronavirus cases leap, government to take new steps

ROME (Reuters) – The number of coronavirus cases in Italy, Europe’s worst-hit country, leapt by more than 1,200 in a 24-hour period, the Civil Protection Agency said on Saturday, the biggest daily rise since the epidemic began two weeks ago.

People wearing protective masks walk through Florence as Italy battles a coronavirus outbreak, in Florence, Italy, March 7, 2020. REUTERS/Jennifer Lorenzini

Deaths due to the infectious virus were up 36 to 233, the head of the agency, Angelo Borrelli, told a news conference.

The government will approve a decree later on Saturday authorizing more measures try to contain the virus, Borrelli said, following the draconian steps taken this week including the closure of schools, cinemas and many public events.

He did not give details of the additional measures.

The number of cases in the country rose to 5,883 on Saturday from 4,636 announced on Friday, meaning that contagion is showing little sign of slowing down.

The disease was first confirmed in Italy 15 days ago and is focused on a handful of hotspots in the north but cases have now been confirmed in each of the country’s 20 regions, with deaths recorded in eight of them.

On Friday, the government approved a plan to employ up to 20,000 new doctors and nurses to respond to the emergency.

Data showed that the northern regions of Lombardia, Emilia Romagna and Veneto were the hardest hit, representing 85% of national cases overall and 92% of recorded deaths.

“We will win this battle if our citizens adopt a responsible attitude and change their way of living,” Borrelli said

In the worst affected areas, Italy’s hospitals are under growing strain. The number of patients in intensive care rose to 567, up 23% from the day before, Borrelli said.

Of those originally infected, 589 have fully recovered.

National Health Institute chief Silvio Brusaferro said the average age of patients who have died was over 81. They were prevalently male and more than 80% had more than two underlying health conditions.

The outbreak has killed more than 3,400 people worldwide and spread across more than 90 nations outside China.

Reporting by Giulia Segreti; Editing by Gavin Jones and James Drummond

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