Italy's coronavirus death toll jumps by nearly 1,000

The coronavirus death toll in Italy has risen by nearly 1,000 in a day – including 44 doctors.

That represents the highest daily tally since the Covid-19 crisis began and is thought to be the sharpest rise in fatalities that any country has seen. Italy’s death toll now stands at 9,134 after 969 deaths were recorded.

Doctors and nurses in overwhelmed northern hospitals had welcomed a slight stabilising in the number of infections but fear the virus is still silently spreading in the south two weeks into an extreme nationwide shutdown.

Virologists have warned that the actual number of Italy’s positive cases is up to five times as high as the official count, which stood at 80,539 earlier. That means infections will still climb even with Italians ordered to stay home for all but essential activity.

Nearly 6,500 health workers have been infected, ISS said.

The country, seen as the epicentre of Europe’s pandemic, has by far the most virus deaths of any nation in the world.

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Despite the toll, officials had been expressing cautious optimism that the exponential spread is starting to slow in the hard-hit north, thanks to two weeks of military-enforced stay-at-home orders.

Luca Lorini, head of intensive care at the Pope John XXIII hospital in Bergamo, said earlier: ‘The numbers are still high, but for a few days now the numbers have stopped rising, thank God.’

Friday’s cumulative death tally included 50 fatalities that actually occurred on Thursday in the northern Piedmont region. Notification for those deaths arrived too late to be included in the official figures for yesterday, the Civil Protection Agency said.

That led to some confusion which meant there were conflicting reports today over whether the tally was 969 or 919.

This is a breaking story – more to follow.

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