Coronavirus: Italy death toll rises to more than 1,000 as France and Ireland shut schools over pandemic

Worst hit country in Europe sees jump in deaths amid unprecedented nationwide lockdown

Schools and colleges in Ireland close for two weeks to stop coronavirus

The death toll from Italy’s coronavirus outbreak passed 1,000 as France and Ireland began closing schools and universities to slow the spread of Covid-19.

Italy’s death toll jumped by 189 in 24 hours to 1,016, a rise of 23 per cent. Officials confirmed cases had risen to 15,113 from 12,462.

This is biggest daily rise in absolute terms since the outbreak was first identified in February and came as the entire country remained paralysed, with non-essential shops and businesses closed.

On Thursday, Rome’s Catholic churches were ordered to close due to the pandemic – a move believed to be unprecedented in modern times.

The decree by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, Pope Francis' vicar for the Rome archdiocese, will remain in place until at least 3 April and will affect more than 900 parochial and historic churches in the capital.

Meanwhile, Ireland and France became the latest countries to shut schools and universities as part of efforts to slow the spread of the virus, while India took drastic measures to limit the number of people entering its country.

Leo Varadkar, Ireland’s premier, announced schools, universities and childcare facilities would be shut until 29 March, and mass gatherings would be restricted, after a surge in confirmed cases.

Ireland’s cases rose from 43 to 70 on Thursday as the country confirmed its first death.

“This is going to involve big changes in the way we live our lives and I know I'm asking people to make enormous sacrifices,” Mr Varadkar said in a statement on national television from Washington, where he was meeting Donald Trump.

“Acting together as a nation, we can save many lives.”

The Irish premier added that all indoor mass gatherings of more than 100 people and outdoor mass gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled and people should, where possible, work from home.

In France, President Emmanuel Macron said all schools and universities in the country would be closed in response to “one of the most serious health crises France has ever faced”.

Mr Macron also warned people over the age of 70 and those who are particularly vulnerable to the virus to avoid contact with others as much as possible.

France has already banned all non-medical visits to retirement homes to protect elderly people.

In one of the most drastic responses to the pandemic, the Indian government announced measures on Thursday to limit the number of people entering its country by suspending visas for visitors for at least a month.

The move, which effectively bans all tourism to India until at least 15 April, will be enforced from Friday onwards.

It came as the number of cases in the country rose to 72 on Thursday amid growing concern about how India’s health system and densely populated cities will cope with a major outbreak.

The Indian health ministry has also “strongly advised” all Indian nationals to avoid non-essential travel abroad as they may be subject to a 14-day quarantine when they return.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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