Ambulances medical staff deliver a patient wearing protection masks at Cruces hospital, in Bilbao, northern Spain, Saturday, March 21, 2020. Image Credit: AP


  • Coronavirus deaths in UK jump to 578
  • Spain extends coronavirus lockdown, death toll reaches 4,089

PARIS: The coronavirus pandemic has killed more than 15,000 people in Europe, according to an AFP tally at 1720 GMT on Thursday.

A total of 15,500 fatalities have been reported across Europe, most of them in Italy (8,165) and Spain (4,089), followed by France with 1,331. With 268,191 officially declared cases of infection, Europe is the continent worst hit by the virus that first emerged in China in December.

Coronavirus deaths in UK jump to 578

Britain recorded more than 100 coronavirus deaths in a 24-hour period for the first time on Thursday, with 115 people who tested positive for the virus dying.

"As of 5pm (1700 GMT) on 25 March 2020, 578 patients in the UK who tested positive for coronavirus (COVID-19) have died," said the official government website, up from 463 on Wednesday.

The number of confirmed cases rose to 11,658 on Thursday from 9,529 on Wednesday, the health ministry said on day three of a nationwide lockdown ordered by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

Britain was slower than some of its European neighbours to tighten social distancing measures, with Johnson waiting until Monday night to tell pubs and restaurants to close and people to stay at home unless absolutely necessary.

The number of cases and deaths in Britain is lower than in Italy, Spain and France, but health officials and scientists have been warning that the peak of the epidemic lies several weeks ahead.

The figures published on Thursday could not be directly compared to those released the previous day because the system for recording cases has changed.

The Wednesday figures comprised the period from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on March 24, an eight-hour window, while the Thursday figures cover the period from 5 p.m. (1700 GMT) on March 24 to 5 p.m. on March 25, a 24-hour time lapse.

In future, figures will be published every day around 2 p.m. covering the 24-hour period that ended the previous day at 5 p.m.

Spain extends coronavirus lockdown

Spain extended its coronavirus lockdown on Thursday and said it was fighting a "real war" over medical supplies to contain the world's second-highest virus death toll, turning to China for many critical products, where officials reported fraud and massive price increases.

A further 655 people died overnight, pushing Spain's toll to 4,089, second only to Italy and further beyond China where the outbreak began.

Elderly nursing home residents have been particularly hard hit. An analysis by radio network Cadena Ser found 1,307 residents had died from the coronavirus, nearly one third of the total dead.

Italy virus cases rise

Italy reported its biggest rise in coronavirus infections in the last five days, as the disease spread further in the northern Lombardy region, even after weeks of rigid lockdown rules.

The civil protection agency reported 6,153 new cases on Thursday, compared with 5,210 a day earlier.

Fatalities from the outbreak over the past 24 hours totaled 662, compared with 683 for the previous day, according to figures provided at the agency's daily news conference on Thursday. Confirmed cases in the country now total 80,539.

With its crematorium facilities overwhelmed, Milan - Lombardy's capital - on Thursday halted cremation rites for victims who aren't residents of the city, Ansa news agency reported.

After Italy posted a decrease in new cases on Wednesday, World Health Organization director for Europe Hans Kluge warned it was too early to say the disease had peaked there. Europe now accounts for 7 out of 10 reported fatalities, the WHO said.

The European Central Bank said earlier it will scrap limits on bond purchases, giving it almost unlimited firepower to fight the economic fallout caused by the outbreak.

Leaders from the Group of 20 nations on Thursday said they were injecting over $5 trillion into the global economy and committed to do "whatever it takes" to overcome the pandemic.

Coronavirus: main measures taken in Europe

A roundup of the main measures being taken in Europe to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.


Citizens have been obliged to stay home in Austria, Belgium, Britain, Czech Republic, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Poland, Romania and Spain, except for medical attention, exercise or essential shopping.

In Spain confinement has been extended to April 11 and in Austria till April 13.

France is expected to announce an extension of the confinement in place since March 17 after scientists advised the period should last until April 28.

The German regional states of Bavaria and Saarland are contained. Other Germans have been urged, but not obliged, to stay home.

Russians have been called on to stay at home and will have next week off work.

Romania has declared a state of emergency, as has Portugal which has also asked citizens to stay at home.

A curfew is in place in Serbia.

Finland will impose isolation on its capital and its province from Friday to April 19.

Controlling, sealing borders

The European Union imposed on March 17 an entry ban on travellers from outside the bloc for an initial period of 30 days, with limited exceptions.

Hungary and Spain have closed their land borders.

Poland on Wednesday extended the closure of its borders to April 13.

Turkey has closed its borders with Greece and Bulgaria.

Germany has stepped up border controls with several countries, including France, which has reciprocated.

Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Lithuania, Romania and Slovakia have closed their borders to foreigners, with Slovakia excepting Poles.

Russia has closed its land borders with Norway and Poland.

Austria has closed its border with Italy and Switzerland.

Closing schools

Schools have been closed in Austria, Belgium, Britain, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey and Ukraine. In Sweden high schools and universities are closed.

Banning gatherings

Countries have set widely different caps on the number of people who can get together.

In Belgium, Cyprus, France and Italy all gatherings are banned.

In France this applies to all religious gatherings scheduled for April, including the Christian and Jewish Easter and the beginning of Ramadan.

Britain, Germany and Poland have banned public gatherings of more than two people. Sweden has only banned gatherings of more than 500 people.

The Vatican decreed that Easter will be celebrated by Catholics without worshippers gathering and such rituals as processions.

Closing businesses

Austria, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Slovenia and Ukraine have closed all places admitting the public.

Non-essential shops are closed in Andorra, Britain, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.

Russia has closed fitness clubs and swimming pools and Moscow is closing cafes and non-essential shops starting Saturday.

Cafes, bars and restaurants are closed in many countries.

Disrupting transport

British airlines have grounded most of their fleet.

France has massively reduced long-distance transport with rail travel as of Friday slashed to seven percent of traffic and two of Paris' main airports to close.

Public transport has been reduced in London, Luxembourg and Paris.

In Ukraine, trips between towns by bus, train and plane are banned and the underground is closed.

Austria's air travel is near zero and it has drastically reduced rail travel. Poland has suspended international air and rail traffic.

Russia will halt all international flights from Friday, with the exception of special flights evacuating Russian citizens from abroad.

Turkey has drastically cut international air links.