Death Toll Skyrockets In Italy And Spain As UK Shuts Pubs And Restaurants
Both Italy and Spain's have had their worst single-day fatalities, as the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson effectively closed down the UK.
Spanish authorities are planning to turn a Madrid conference centre into a giant military hospital for coronavirus patients, as Europe's second-worst outbreak claimed another 235 lives.
Spain's worst single-day death toll yet brought the country's total fatalities above 1000 on Friday.
Spain has swiftly followed Italy to become the second European country where hundreds of people are being killed by the coronavirus daily. The death toll shows little sign of slowing.
Some 5500 hospital beds, including intensive care units, will be set up inside the 240,000 square metre IFEMA conference centre on the capital's outskirts to cope with surging demand expected in the coming days, the Madrid region said in a tweet.
"The most difficult days are coming now," health emergencies chief Fernando Simon told a news conference.
The capital has become the epicentre of the disease in Spain. With nearly 20,000 cases reported as of Friday, Spain overtook Iran to become the world's third hardest-hit country after China and Italy.
The Madrid region accounts for 628 deaths and 7165 cases.
The government promised measures on Thursday to protect the elderly and staff at nursing homes after large numbers of deaths.
The country has ramped up efforts to curb the spread of the disease in the past week, ordering a nationwide 15-day state of emergency on Saturday that bars people from all but essential outings.
Bars, restaurants and most shops have been shut and transport restricted.
The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has leapt by 627 to 4032 in by far the largest daily rise in absolute terms since the contagion emerged a month ago.
On Thursday, Italy overtook China as the country to register most deaths from the highly contagious virus.
Until Friday, Italy had never recorded more than 475 deaths in a single day, while China, where the contagion has slowed sharply, has never reported more than 150.
While deaths rose 18.4 per cent, the total number of cases in Italy rose to 47,021 from a previous 41,035, an increase of 14.6 per cent, the Civil Protection Agency said.
The hardest-hit northern region of Lombardy remains in a critical situation, with 2549 deaths and 22,264 cases.
Of those originally infected nationwide, 5129 had fully recovered on Friday compared to 4440 the day before.
Meanwhile Johnson has effectively closed down the UK, ordering pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and gyms to shut their doors as his government vowed to cover workers' wages.
As the coronavirus outbreak sweeps across the world, governments, companies and investors are grappling with the biggest public health crisis since the 1918 influenza pandemic.
Johnson said he understood just how wrenching it was to take away the ancient rights of the British people to go to the pub, but it was absolutely essential to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
"I do accept that what we're doing is extraordinary: we're taking away the ancient, inalienable right of free-born people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub, and I can understand how people feel about that," Johnson said on Friday.
"It's a huge wrench to do that, everybody understands that.
"It's heartbreaking to think of the businesses that will face difficulties as a result of the measures this country has had to take."
The UK so far has 3983 confirmed cases of coronavirus, after 66,976 people were tested, though the government's scientists say it is raging across London, partly as some people are not obeying government advice to isolate.
At total of 177 people with the virus have died so far.
Johnson's finance minister Rishi Sunak launched a gigantic stimulus package to stabilise Britain's virus-hit economy on Friday, including the government paying the wages of workers up and down the country.
"Today I can announce that for the first time in our history the government is going to step in and pay people's wages," Sunak said.
"That is a direct injection of over 30 billion pounds of cash to businesses, equivalent to 1.5 per cent of GDP," he said at a news conference.
Sunak said there would be no financial limit to the size of the plan and the grant system for helping meet the wages of workers would be up and running by the end of April.