Coronavirus: Italy death toll reaches 3,405, overtaking China

Officials report 427 new deaths on same day Chinese city records no new infections

Conrad Duncan
Thursday 19 March 2020 18:21 GMT
Coronavirus: Army drafted in to help move corpses from 'Italy's Wuhan'

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Italy has overtaken China as the country with the most coronavirus-related deaths in the world after reporting 3,405 fatalities from the Covid-19 pandemic.

In a stark illustration of how Europe has become the new epicentre of the pandemic, Italian officials reported 427 additional deaths on the same day Wuhan, the Chinese city where the virus was first identified, recorded no new infections.

UN and Italian health authorities have cited a variety of reasons for Italy's toll, most notably its large elderly population, which is the second oldest in the world.

The vast majority of people who have died in Italy - 87 per cent, as of Thursday - have been older than 70 years old.

Italy, with its population of 60 million people, has now recorded about 150 more deaths than China, which has a population of more than 1 billion.

The Chinese government has used draconian lockdowns to control its outbreak and stop the spread of Covid-19.

On Thursday, a visiting Chinese Red Cross team criticised the failure of some Italians to properly quarantine themselves and take national lockdown measures seriously.

Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit, a virologist at Germany's Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, said Italy's high death rate could be explained in part by the almost total breakdown of the health system in some areas.

"That's what happens when the health system collapses," he said.

On a visit to the northern city of Milan, the head of a Chinese Red Cross delegation helping advise Italy said he was shocked to see so many people walking around, using public transportation and eating out.

Thursday marked the first time since 20 January that Wuhan showed no new locally transmitted cases of Covid-19, a sign of how China's strict measures have been effective for containing the virus.

Additional reporting by AP

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