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Coronavirus Death Toll In Italy Surges By 793 In One Day

The coronavirus outbreak has led to staggering caseloads in Italy as countries around the world tighten restrictions on free movement.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken an increasingly bleak toll in the U.S. and Europe, producing staggering caseloads in New York and Italy and setting off a desperate scramble to set up thousands of additional hospital beds at convention centres and college campuses.

Italy, at the heart of western Europe's rampaging outbreak, announced 793 new deaths and 6557 new cases.

Woman prays outside the balcony for the pandemic of Coronavirus Covid-19. Image: AAP

More than 60 per cent of the latest deaths occurred in the northern region of Lombardy, where hospitals have been reeling, intensive care beds hard to find and respirators in short supply.

Italy has recorded a total of 53,578 cases overall, and the new increases come nearly two weeks into a country-wide lockdown.

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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.

In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo said state officials were scouring the globe for desperately needed medical supplies as confirmed coronavirus cases soared above 10,000 statewide.

The state is reviewing four possible locations for temporary hospitals, which would be operated by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The governor also said one million N-95 masks are being sent to New York City, with another 500,000 masks going to Long Island.

He is also trying to find a supplier for more gowns, and clothing companies are converting to make masks.

A normally very busy Times Square is nearly empty on March 12, 2020 in New York City. Image: Getty

New York has had about 10,400 coronavirus cases and about 1600 people hospitalised.

Spread of the rapidly advancing virus has strained health care systems across the globe, and three US states with a combined population of 70 million are moving to restrict residents to their homes to prevent its spread.

California started restricting residents on Friday, and New York and Illinois were to follow this weekend. Connecticut and Oregon were preparing to do the same.

Almost a week into tight restrictions on free movement and the closure of most shops in Spain, police intensified their efforts to enforce confinement rules with fines and extra patrols to stop city-dwellers with second homes in the country from leaving town for the weekend.

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Spaniards Take To Their Balconies To Applaud Doctors And Nurses During Coronavirus Lockdown

Spaniards have erupted into spontaneous applause to show support for health officials after the country of 47 million people was placed under lockdown on Sunday.

Spain now has the third-highest number of infections worldwide. On Saturday it reported almost 5000 new cases in the past day, bringing the total to nearly 25,000. The death toll rose to 1326, up from 1002 on Friday.

As hospitals and nursing homes buckle under the burden of the virus outbreak, Spanish health authorities have acknowledged that some intensive care units in the hardest-hit areas are close to their limit, and warned that they expect infections to continue to rise before measures to reverse the trend have an effect.

The army was building a field hospital with 5500 beds in a convention centre in Madrid, where hotels are also being turned into wards for virus patients without serious breathing problems.

A man wearing a face mask sits on a bench in the city of Malaga. Image: SOPA

Dr Olga Meridiano, who treated victims of a 2004 jihadist bomb attack in Madrid that killed nearly 200 people and wounded many times more, said nothing prepared her for the health tragedy that Spain is now enduring.

"I have been through many situations," she said from the central city of Guadalajara, where she works in a public hospital.

But nothing is like this.

"If we keep seeing daily increases of 23 per cent, this cannot be withstood much longer," Meridiano said.

"We are doubling up on our shifts. We have strategies to hang in there this week, but beyond that we need the situation to improve because we professionals are bearing a lot of pressure, including emotional."

In Germany's southern state of Bavaria, town squares were empty. Pigeons outnumbered people in London's usually bustling Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square a day after the British government ordered the closure of all bars, restaurants, movie theatres and other places where people congregate.

But shoppers still flocked to street markets in both countries, in a sign that restrictions were being interpreted in a patchwork fashion.

The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 recorded across the African continent rose above 1000 on Saturday, according to the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

At least 40 of Africa's 54 countries now have cases.

Almost 287,000 cases have been confirmed globally, including more than 11,900 deaths, according to a running tally by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 89,000 people have recovered.

Officials in many countries are desperate to prevent -- or at least limit -- a repeat of what has happened in China and southern Europe.

The coronavirus outbreak overwhelmed medical services in the central Chinese city of Wuhan earlier this year and now is pushing them to the limit in Italy, Spain and France.

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Spain, France Announce Major Coronavirus Lockdowns

The French government has ordered the closing of cafes, restaurants and cinemas as Spanish officials planned to lock down their 46 million citizens.

China reported on Saturday that its mainland had no new home-grown cases of the disease for the third straight day, but 41 imported ones in the previous 24-hour period.

Restrictions on movement are being eased gradually in China as it tries to restart the economy without bringing back the disease.

Officials in Wuhan are permitting supermarkets, convenience stores and some other retail businesses to reopen from 9am to 6pm if they are in areas with no confirmed or suspected cases.