With 10,000 Covid-19 Deaths and Over 90,000 Infected Italy Faces Economic Collapse

Published March 28th, 2020 - 06:56 GMT
(AFP File Photo)
(AFP File Photo)
Italy's Prime Minister today warned the European Union could 'lose its purpose' if it fails to respond strongly to coronavirus - after the country saw its worst spike in deaths to date.

Italy's coronavirus death toll has skyrocketed by 899 in just 24 hours bringing the total number of deaths to 10,023.

The second highest death toll increase comes as the total number of cases in Italy hit 92,472.

The Italian Army were today brought in to ferry coffins out of Bergamo, Northern Italy as its morgue and crematorium struggle to cope with the surge in fatalities from the pandemic.

Italy's largest daily toll was registered on Friday, when 919 people died.

Prior to that, there were 712 deaths on Thursday, 683 on Wednesday, 743 on Tuesday and 602 on Monday.

Italy has the second highest number of cases, behind the United States. It surpassed China's tally on Friday.

Harrowing photos from Bergamo show officers wearing protective hazmat suits as they work to store bodies in churches and halls.

Italy's Prime Minister today warned the European Union could 'lose its purpose' if it fails to respond strongly to coronavirus - after the country saw its worst spike in deaths to date.

Giuseppe Conte gave the stark statement as grim statistics revealed 969 more deaths yesterday, bringing the total to 9,134, up 11.9 per cent.

Conte aired his grievances after the 27 EU leaders could not agree on an action plan during an argumentative six-hour video conference Thursday and gave their finance ministers two more weeks to forge a policy that could please Italy and Spain.

The two countries hardest-hit by the pandemic blocked Thursday's statement because it did not go far enough.

The crux of the argument is about the extent to which the EU - facing what Italy views as an existential threat - should abandon its policy of keeping within tight budget constraints.

The bloc has already untied its purse strings in ways not seen since the 2008-2009 global financial crisis. 

Conte argues that this is not enough.

Rome and Madrid want the EU to start issuing 'corona bonds' - a form of common debt that governments sell on markets to raise money and address individual economic needs.

More spendthrift nations such as Germany and the Netherlands are balking at the idea of joint debt.

Conte said he and German Chancellor Angela Merkel had 'not just a disagreement but a hard a frank confrontation' Thursday about how to proceed.

'If Europe does not rise to this unprecedented challenge, the whole European structure loses its raison d'etre (reason for existing) to the people,' Conte told the Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper.

The entire eurozone is expected to slip into a recession over the coming months.

But Italy is facing the threat of a near economic collapse after being the first European country to shutter almost all its businesses on March 12.

Some forecasts suggests that its economy - now the third-largest among nations that use the euro common currency - could contract by as much as seven percent this year.

It shrank by 5.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2009.

Conte warned that EU leaders were in danger of making 'tragic mistakes' that 'leave our children the immense burden of a devastated economy.'

'I represent a country that is suffering a lot and I cannot afford to procrastinate,' Conte said.

The energetic 55-year-old has seen his popularity shoot up thanks to a general sense that he was doing all he could to help the country through its worst crisis since World War II.

Italy's world-leading death toll is on course to eclipse 10,000 this weekend and its painful shutdown of businesses and many factories could last for months.

The country's COVID-19 contagion rates are slowing but deaths are still being recorded at frightening rates.

Italy set a new global record by registering more than 900 deaths on Friday - and 1,600 in just two days.

But a growing number of medics are warning that its fatalities could be much higher because retirement homes often do not report all their COVID-19 deaths.

The number of people who have died from the new disease at home is unknown.

'This is something very different from the 2008 crisis,' Conte said. 'We are at a critical point in European history.' 

And yesterday Spain also suffered record virus deaths as the country's infection rate soared past 72,248.

The number of deaths from Covid-19 registered in the past 24 hours is 832, a record number for the country in a single-day period.

It beats the previous Spanish record of 769 coronavirus deaths which was announced on Friday.

The grim statistic means 5,690 people with the virus have now died in Spain.

The number of new coronavirus cases registered in the past 24 hours is 8,000.

Spanish Ministry of Health figures show some 40,630 have needed to be hospitalised, 4,575 people have been admitted to intensive care and 12,285 people have been cured of the disease. 

On Monday a second makeshift morgue is due to start functioning in Madrid, Spain's worst affected area, after a retail centre ice rink where families paid six pounds a time to skate became its first stop-gap body drop because of the saturation funeral parlours were facing.

The new temporary morgue, known locally as the Donut because of the way it looks from the sky, was built to be Madrid's Institute of Forensic Medicine but never opened.


© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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