Coronavirus: Fears over rapid spread in Italy’s south

Health workers at the Villa Scassi hospital, where patients who may be infected with the coronavirus are hospitalized in GenoaImage rights

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Italy is the European country most affected by the Corona virus outbreak

The number of deaths and infections has fallen sharply in the Italian region most affected by the coronavirus, but concerns are growing that the south of the country could become the next hotspot.

Recent numbers from the northern region of Lombardy indicate that the epidemic in its epicenter could slow down.

However, deaths are increasing rapidly in poorer southern parts, raising concerns that healthcare may be overwhelmed.

Italy has reported 8,215 coronavirus deaths and 80,539 confirmed cases.

A four-day trend of a slight decrease in the number of cases ended Thursday when both infections and deaths increased compared to the previous 24-hour period.

Italy is worst affected in Europe, where almost everything has been closed for over two weeks and people are asked to stay at home.

What is happening in southern Italy?

Contagion and deaths are far less common there, but worrying signs come from regions like Campania around Naples and Rome's Lazio, where the health care system is considered to be much less equipped than in the rich north.

So far there have been 74 deaths in Campania and 95 in Lazio.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Vincenzo De Luca, President of the Campania Region, complained that the central government had not provided promised ventilators and other life-saving devices.

"At this point, there is a real prospect that the Lombardy tragedy will soon become the southern tragedy," he said. "We are facing a major spread of infections that may not be sustainable."

On Thursday, Mr Conte informed the Italian Senate that Europe would experience a "hard, severe" recession after the coronavirus emergency and that "extraordinary and extraordinary measures" would be needed to deal with the shock.

With analysts predicting the stringent measures will lead Italy to plunge into the deepest recession in a generation, Mr. Conte promised a second stimulus package worth at least EUR 25 billion (GBP 23 billion; USD 27 billion).

What else is happening in Europe?

In Spain, the second worst affected European country, the daily death toll has dropped for the first time in a week, according to the Ministry of Health. There have been 655 new deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the country's total to 4,089.

On Wednesday, the country's death toll exceeded that of China, where the outbreak began. Meanwhile, the total number of coronavirus cases in Spain rose from 47,610 to 56,188, a new daily high.

Nursing homes, the elderly of which are very susceptible to the disease, are particularly affected by Covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. A report by the Cadena Ser radio network revealed that at least 397 deaths had occurred in such locations.

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The previous Thursday, the Spanish parliament had extended the restrictions on popular movements to at least April 12. Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said: "I am convinced that the only effective option to fight the virus is social isolation."

In other developments:

  • Russia said it would stop international flights on Friday and Moscow would close all stores except pharmacies and grocery stores on Saturday
  • GermanyThe relatively low mortality rate is primarily due to the high number of tests performed, said Christian Drosten, head of the Virology Institute at the Charite University Hospital in Berlin
  • in the FranceWhere 1,331 deaths were reported, President Emmanuel Macron said he would call on the army to help the country while a government spokeswoman said the 15-day ban could be extended, with a final decision "in the coming days."

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