Italy on Sunday recorded its biggest daily death toll from the novel coronavirus, which has now claimed over 6,000 lives worldwide, forcing European governments to further tighten controls.
The number of fatalities in Italy shot up by 368 to 1,809 — more than half of all the cases recorded outside China.
The Vatican took the drastic step of cancelling Easter week celebrations as northern Italian leaders warned they were running out of beds and artificial respirators.
Pope Francis left Vatican City on Sunday “on foot, as if on a pilgrimage” to pray in one of Rome’s cathedrals for victims of the coronavirus pandemic, the Vatican said.
Across France and Spain, which have also become European virus hotspots, cafes, shops and restaurants closed.
France had ordered the closure of all non-essential businesses, while Spain went a step further, banning people from leaving home except to go to work, get medical care or buy food.
Cases also spiked in Germany which will introduce border controls with France, Austria, Switzerland, Luxemburg and Denmark from Monday.
Chaos at US airport
The United States imposed a travel ban on countries in Europe’s Schengen free-movement area last week, and has since added Britain and Ireland to the list.
The new restrictions threw airports into disarray, with passengers complaining of massive queues as staff battled with the new entry rules and stipulations on medical screening.
US President Donald Trump tested negative for the disease, having come into contact with several members of a Brazilian presidential delegation who have since tested positive.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Sunday the impact of the pandemic was producing a “slowdown” in the American economy, but he did not expect a full-blown recession.
The number of officially recorded novel coronavirus cases globally stood at 163,930 with 6,420 deaths, across 141 countries and territories at 1700 GMT Sunday, according to a tally compiled by AFP from official sources.
The death toll in Europe passed 2,000 on Sunday.
The disease has now hit all global regions, ripping up sporting and cultural calendars, shaking the stock markets and businesses — particularly airlines — and prompting often contradictory responses from governments.
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