COVID-19: 651 more die in Italy; China's imported cases spike

March 22 (UPI) — Italy, the new epicenter of coronavirus, reported 651 more deaths Sunday as China, where the outbreak began, reported six deaths, all imported from another country.

A few weeks ago, virtually all cases and deaths were in China. One week ago, the cases outside China had risen to nearly half and during the week Italy overtook China in the number of deaths.

On Sunday night, the death toll in Italy rose to 5,476, which is an increase of 13.5 percent in one day. The previous day the percentage rose 19.6 percent with another 793 deaths, which actually is 142 more than Saturday’s figure.

China’s National Health Commission reported a total of 3,261 deaths, which is an increase of 48 in seven days. The number of cases overall in mainland China is 81,054 — still the most in the world.

Cases in Italy increased from 53,578 to 59,138 despite despite more than a week of lockdown in the nation of 60 million people; and earlier in northern Italy.

Spain is third with 28,572 cases.

Through Saturday, United States climbed to fourth in cases at 26,647, which is a 36.2 percent increase, and fifth in deaths at 330, which is a 27.9 percent spike. At midday, the number of U.S. cases was 31,057 with 390 deaths.

Worldwide there are 14,366 deaths and 321,943 cases, according to John Hopkins tracking

On Saturday, deaths spiked 14.4 percent in one day and cases went up 25.6 in 24 hours despite restrictions on non-essential services throughout the world.

On Sunday, China reported 46 new cases, of which 45 were imported for a total of 314. For the past three days, none of the cases derived in the country.

The local infection is in the southern city of Guangzhou, in Guangdong province, where two imported cases — Philippines and Turkey — were also reported.

The number of cases overall in mainland China is 81,054 — the most in the world.

A total of 72,244 patients in mainland China have recovered from the virus and been discharged from hospitals.

In Wuhan, the Chinese city hit hardest by the coronavirus, authorities began removing checkpoints after reporting no new cases for a third day, while other places also eased restrictions.

Elsewhere in China, schools are preparing to open their doors again in many provinces.

China is trying to protect areas outside Hubei, where the death toll is 3,144.

All international flights to Beijing, the capital, will be diverted to other cities in China starting Monday.

Passengers on affected flights will need to clear immigration and customs at their first port of entry. If they are healthy, they will be allowed to board the same aircraft to fly to Beijing, the government announced Sunday.

Outside mainland China, there have been four deaths in Hong Kong and two in Taiwan.

Other Asian countries have been in relatively good health.

In Japan, the death toll is 35, which is an increase of one, and 1,055 cases, which went up by 40. But the nation has raised its travel alert for the United States, urging citizens to only go there if it is essential.

In South Korea, the number of cases grew by 98 to 8,897 with 104 deaths.

The country began conducting new tests on all arrivals from Europe and requiring even those with negative results to undergo a 14-day self-quarantine.

In India, the nation instituted the world’s largest non-official curfew — but it will last only 14 hours.

“The steps we take now will help in the times to come. Stay indoors and stay healthy,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi has kept up a steady stream of tweets since early morning, asking citizens to stay inside.


Spain reported its death figures Sunday morning — 1,720 compared with 1,381 the day before.

“The worst is yet to come, and it is pushing our capacities to the limit,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Saturday night. The nation has been on lockdown for eight days.

In Britain, the death toll climbed to 281, an increase of 47. Confirmed cases rose from 5,018 to 5,683. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned that the country’s NHS risks becoming “overwhelmed” by the coronavirus outbreak and that the situation in Britain is just two or three weeks behind Italy.

“The numbers are very stark, and they are accelerating. We are only a matter of weeks — two or three — behind Italy,” Johnson said.

“The Italians have a superb health care system. And yet their doctors and nurses have been completely overwhelmed by the demand. The Italian death toll is already in the thousands and climbing.

“Unless we act together, unless we make the heroic and collective national effort to slow the spread — then it is all too likely that our own NHS will be similarly overwhelmed,” Johnson said.

Germany on Sunday reported eight additional tests to 92 with cases up to 23,974.

Prime Minister Angela Merkel announced Germany will “ban gatherings of more than two people,” with the exception of families and people living together. Like other countries, she shut restaurants for at least two weeks.

Merkel said she was going into self quarantine after a doctor who gave her a vaccination Friday tested positive for coronavirus, Merkel’s spokesman Steffen Seibert announced.

Not reporting new statistics Sunday were France, which had 562 deaths Saturday compared with 450 the day before. The first doctor to die from coronavirus in France was a 67-year old-emergency doctor at the Compiègne hospital, the city’s Mayor Philippe Marini told French broadcaster BFM on Sunday.

In other developments:

Iran: Supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei refused American aid for Iran’s citizens on Sunday.

“Maybe the medication provided is also another tool to aggravate that disease, so we can never trust you,” Khamenei, considered the highest authority in Iran, said, without evidence, in a speech delivered on Iran’s national TV for the annual Persian new year.

He added it was “very strange” that the United States is offering the country medication.

“The U.S. has shortages, they are facing acute shortages in terms of preventive tools,” he said.

Iran reported 556 deaths, which was a spike from 1,433. It has more than 20,000 cases.

Australia: Authorities closed Bondi beach and removed hundreds of people from other popular Sydney beaches on Saturday after large crowds had gathered in clear defiance of public health warnings.

“What we saw this morning at Bondi Beach was the most irresponsible behavior of individuals that we’ve seen so far,” David Elliott, the new South Wales police and emergency services minister, told reporters on Saturday. “We cannot have an area where more than 500 people are gathered.”

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday issued rules nationwide. Registered and licensed clubs, licensed premises in hotels and pubs, entertainment venues and cinemas, casinos and nightclubs will all close.

Israel: Unemployment surged to 16.5 percent, the country’s Employment Service said in a statement Sunday morning, compared with around 4 percent before the coronavirus outbreak began. The nation has 883 cases and one death.

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