Tue, 26 May 2020

Italy Becomes Second Country to Pass Chinese Virus Case Total

Voice of America
28 Mar 2020, 05:35 GMT+10

LONDON - Italy on Friday became the second country to overtake China in coronavirus infections, reaching 86,498 cases on the same day it recorded its single biggest leap in coronavirus deaths, with 969 more victims.

The gruesome milestones nevertheless came on the day that Italian health officials said they were seeing a slight slowing in new positive cases, two weeks into a nationwide lockdown.

Italy has recorded more virus-related deaths than any other country in the world. On Friday, the toll hit 9,134.

Deaths also surged in Spain on Friday. The Health Ministry reported another 7,800 infections overnight for a total of 64,059. Deaths reached 4,934, the world's second-highest total.

Spain said 9,444 health workers had contracted the coronavirus, nearly 15% of the total number of cases.

"It's true that we have more deaths than what we saw yesterday, but it's also true that the percentage increase today is similar to that of the past three days and it appears there is a stabilization," said Fernando Simon, the head of Spain's health emergency coordination center.

The situation in countries with more fragile health care systems worsened, with Russia, Indonesia and South Africa all passing the 1,000-infection mark. South Africa also announced its first two deaths from the virus as it began a three-week lockdown.

In China, where the virus is believed to have started, the National Health Commission on Friday reported 55 new cases, 54 of them imported infections. Again, there were no new cases reported in Wuhan, the provincial capital where the coronavirus first emerged late last year.

Numbers could be low

Analysts warned that infection figures could be low for reasons that varied in each nation.

"China numbers can't be trusted because the government lies," American political scientist Ian Bremmer, president of the Eurasia Group think tank, said in a tweet. "U.S. numbers can't be trusted because the government can't produce enough tests."

Italian epidemiologists warned that the country's numbers were likely much higher than reported - perhaps by five times.

"It's a horrible sensation, not being able to breathe," said Fausto Russo, a 38-year-old fitness trainer who is one of 10,000 Italians whose infection has been cured. "Imagine putting your head under water."

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. Johns Hopkins reported nearly 130,000 people have recovered, about half in China.

But for others, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, the virus can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

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