PARIS: French health authorities reported 509 new deaths from the coronavirus on Wednesday, taking the total to 4,032, making the country the fourth to pass the 4,000-fatalities threshold after Italy, Spain and the United States.
The daily government tally still only accounts for those dying in hospital but authorities say they will very soon be able to compile data on deaths in retirement homes, which is likely to result in a big increase in registered fatalities.
The coronavirus pandemic has claimed more than 30,000 lives in Europe alone, a global tally showed Wednesday, in what the head of the United Nations has described as humanity’s worst crisis since World War II.
Spain and Italy
Italy and Spain bore the brunt of the crisis, accounting for three in every four deaths on the continent, as the grim tally hit another milestone even though half of the planet’s population is already under some form of lockdown in a battle to halt contagion.
Spain reported a record 864 deaths in 24 hours, pushing the country’s number of fatalities past 9,000.
The toll is only dwarfed by Italy’s, where the virus has killed nearly 13,000 people.
Since emerging in China in December, COVID-19 has spread across the globe, claiming over 43,000 lives and infecting more than 900,000 people.
Italy extends lockdown as toll passes 13,000
Italy on Wednesday extended its economically-crippling lockdown until April 13 to help stem coronavirus infections that have claimed 13,115 lives.
"If we start loosening our measures now, all our efforts will have been in vain," Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told the nation in a national televised address.
The extension had been expected. Italy's health minister said on Monday that businesses across the nation of 60 million would remained shuttered and public gatherings banned until at least April 12.
Italy's official infection rate has been steadily slowing but the number of daily deaths has remained stubbornly high.
The country reported another 727 fatalities on Wednesday.
It has registered 2,376 deaths in the last three days alone.
Officials are now debating how they can resume at least some business activity without spreading the new disease.
Italy's Confindustria big business union estimates that each week under lockdown slices about 0.75 percent off the country's annual gross domestic product — now the third-largest in the European Union.
Some media reports suggest that Conte will eventually leave that decision to regional leaders.
Local officials might then decide which factories or businesses in their regions can function safely if all the various social distancing rules are applied.
The authorities are also awaiting the delivery of kits that could allow comprehensive testing so that some people can resume work.
But Conte gave no indication of when or how the current lockdown measures — in place fully since March 12 — might be eased.
"When the experts tell us that the numbers are looking better, we will start thinking about lifting all the measures," Conte said.
"But I cannot tell you if that will be on April 14."
Current restrictions had been due to expire on Friday.