The United States recorded nearly 1,500 deaths from COVID-19 between Thursday and Friday, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, the worst 24-hour death toll globally since the pandemic began while France recorded 588 deaths and Italy recorded 766 deaths in 24 hours.
With 1,480 deaths counted between 8:30pm, 0030 GMT, Thursday and the same time Friday, according to the university’s continuously updated figures, the total number of people who have died since the start of the pandemic in the United States is now 7,406.
Meanwhile, France on Friday reported 588 more coronavirus deaths in hospital, its biggest 24-hour toll in the country since the epidemic began.
The new deaths brought to 5,091 the total number of people who have died in hospital of COVID-19 in France, top health official Jerome Salomon told reporters.
There is no daily toll for those who have died of COVID-19 in old people’s homes in France. But Salomon said that a total of 1,416 people had died in such establishments from COVID-19 during the epidemic. This brings the total French toll to at least 6,507.
France has been in lockdown since March 17 in a bid to slow the spread of the epidemic, with only essential trips allowed outside that have to be justified with a signed piece of paper.
In a glimmer of hope, Salomon said that 1,186 more people had been hospitalised suffering from the coronavirus with 263 more entering intensive care, the lowest such increases for over a week.
He said that there were a total of 64,338 confirmed cases in France, an increase of 5,233 on the day earlier. But this does not include all cases as testing is not universal.
According to Salomon there was a reduction in emergency phone calls and while it was too soon to say this was a trend it was ‘good news’.
‘We cannot analyse the situation based on one number and one day but we have noticed this decrease,’ he said.
Despite the decrease in growth of intensive care patients ‘we have still not reached the peak of this wave and even less its diminution,’ he added.
On what in usual times would be a weekend where French families would decamp en masse for the Easter holidays, Salomon repeated official warnings that vacationing was out of the question.
‘This evening above all. Stay at home if you want to save lives,’ he said.
Asked about apparent mixed messages over the course of the crisis concerning whether people should wear sanitary masks, Salomon said they could help but gave no indication whether this would be obligatory.
‘In France, as in Europe, we don’t have the tradition of wearing the mask. There is a tradition in Asia.’
‘These masks allow you to protect yourself. If there is access to masks we encourage the public to wear masks if they desire,’ he said.
Italy saw more evidence Friday that it might have made it through the worst of the coronavirus pandemic despite the world-leading death toll growing by 766 to 14,681.
In new data from the civil protection service the daily rise of officially registered infections dropped to a new low of just four per cent.
The number of people who have been declared fully recovered has soared by 17.3 per cent to 19,758 over the past 48 hours.
The situation in some of Italy’s worst-hit regions also appears to be gradually easing.
Lombardy, in the north, where over half the official deaths have been counted, showed only a slight rise in patients receiving intensive care.
‘The numbers are improving,’ Lombardy’s chief medical officer Giuli Gallera said,
‘Our hospitals are starting to breathe.’
The virus has nevertheless stretched Italian hospitals to the breaking point and delivered a shattering blow to the economy — the European Union’s third biggest last year.
The national accounting association said last month’s sudden halt to tourism and subsequent national lockdown could see annual hotel and restaurant revenues drop by 45 per cent.
Italy was the first European country to close everything except for pharmacies and grocery stores on March 12.
The shutdown and accompanying ban on public gatherings have been formally extended until April 13.
But few Italians expect the country to be up and fully running any time soon.
Civil protection service chief Angelo Borrelli told RAI television Friday that Italians will probably ‘have to stay at home for many more weeks’.
Italy’s big business lobby Confindustria said it expected output to shrink by six per cent if the pandemic does not ease by the end of May.
It said each additional week after that would chop another 0.75 per cent of gross domestic product.
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