Italy reported its worst day of coronavirus deaths and Spain’s surged by about a third, accelerating the pandemic’s toll across Europe even as the continent battles to enforce national lockdowns.
Italy reported 793 deaths on Saturday, raising the total to 4,825 after the nation — its hospitals overflowing, its health-care workers dying. It overtook China as the most deadly center of the outbreak and is fast running out of solutions — social and economic — to contain the catastrophe. The U.K. had a significant jump in its death count, from 177 to 233.
“The only way is to respect containment rules,” Silvio Brusaferro, head of Italy’s National Health Institute, appealed to the nation of 60 million to heed lockdown recommendations. “We aren’t serious enough about it. Otherwise, the consequences are fatal like today.”
As the human toll mounts, governments are increasingly throwing out the rulebook to counter the economic impact. Germany, long a holdout on deficit spending, pledged new debt worth almost 4.5% of its economic output. Unprecedented U.K. measures include helping pay people’s wages and the U.S. administration is floating about $2 trillion in stimulus.
Hospitals in Italy and Spain have been overwhelmed by the scale of admissions, but more importantly the speed. Staff have watched the number of known cases multiply fivefold or more within weeks and wards for geriatric care or dermatology are being cleared for coronavirus sufferers.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is weighing extending the ban on non-essential activities until at least May 1, according to La Stampa, and the government may call in the army to help enforce restrictions.
In Italy’s economic heart, the restrictions became even harsher: all commercial activities with exception of food distribution and drug stores are now shut and even jogging is banned. The Lombardy region, which has Milan as its capital, is where almost two-thirds of the country’s coronavirus deaths have occurred.
Spain is entering the second week of a state of emergency that has confined most people to their homes with police patrolling the streets to enforce the lockdown. Reported deaths rose by 324 on Saturday to 1,326, about twice the pace recorded the previous day, according to the Health Ministry.
Spain has been testing between 15,000 and 20,000 people a day and will use robots to increase that fourfold. The government has suggested the two-week lockdown may be extended.
With free movement in the European Union under strain, Italian Transportation Minister Paola De Micheli asked other European Union countries to ensure unrestricted passage for trucks on the country’s northern border.
Germany is pledging more than 150 billion euros ($160 billion) in new debt to help small companies cover overheads and aid to low-income earners, Finance Minister Olaf Scholz said Saturday. Chancellor Angela Merkel plans to convene her cabinet on Monday to sign off on the plan.
Even so, a recession in Germany “is now inevitable,” European Central Bank Governing Council member Jens Weidmann told Die Welt.
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