21.03.2020 Europe

Italy virus toll hits single-day record, UK's Johnson shuts pubs, restaurants

REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo
LISTEN MAR 21, 2020
REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

Italy has recorded 627 new coronavirus deaths, the world's highest single-day toll since the coronavirus outbreak began, as its total deaths passed 4,000. Restrictions tightened in the UK on Friday as Prime Minster Boris Johnson ordered pubs, restaurants and theatres to close.

The Mediterranean country's daily rate of fatalities is now higher than that officially reported by China at the peak of its outbreak around Wuhan's Hubei province.

But Matteo Bassetti of Italy's prestigious San Martino clinic in Genoa said the government probably had no idea how many people really had the new disease.

"There are so many people walking around who have the virus and who are at risk of infecting others," Bassetti told Italy's AGI news agency.

"The 40,000 cases we are talking about (in Italy) could actually be 100 times higher."

Italy is rapidly notching up one grim record after the next as it becomes the new global epicentre of Covid-19.

In less than four weeks, it has recorded more deaths than China officially registered since reporting its first infection to the World Health Organization in late December.

Italy has seen more than 1,500 deaths from Covid-19 in the past three days alone. The total number of deaths now stands at 4,032. Infections rose Friday by nearly 6,000 -- another international record -- to 47,021.

UK begins closing down
Prime Minister Boris Johnson effectively shut down the United Kingdom on Friday, ordering pubs, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and gyms to shut their doors in a bid to slow down the accelerating spread of the coronavirus.

Johnson said he understood just how wrenching it was to take away the ancient rights of the British people but that it was absolutely essential to slow the spread of Covid-19.

“I do accept that what we're doing is extraordinary: we're taking away the ancient, inalienable right of free-born people of the United Kingdom to go to the pub, and I can understand how people feel about that,” Johnson said. “It's a huge wrench.”

The United Kingdom so far has 3,983 confirmed cases of coronavirus, after 66,976 people were tested, though the government's scientists say it is raging across London, partly as some people are not obeying government advice to isolate.

At total of 177 people with the virus have died so far across the country.

(with wires)

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