More people have now died from COVID-19 in Italy than in China. Italy overtook China on Thursday -- the same day that China reported no new cases in Wuhan, the city where the new coronavirus was first reported back in December.
As of Thursday, Italy had recorded at least 3,405 deaths. That number is about 200 more than the total recorded deaths in China.
China has had two times more confirmed cases of COVID-19 than Italy. Its population is 20 times larger than Italy’s.
Jonas Schmidt-Chanasit is a virologist at Germany’s Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine. He said that Italy’s high death rate could be explained in part by the “collapse” of the health care system in some parts of the country.
Sun Shuopeng leads a Chinese Red Cross delegation that is helping to advise Italy. On a visit to the northern city of Milan, he said he was shocked to see so many people walking around, using public transportation, eating out and partying at hotels.
“Right now we need to stop all economic activity and we need to stop the mobility of people,” he said. “All people should be staying at home in quarantine.”
Sun added that infections were still rising in Wuhan after one month of enforced lockdown.
Health officials have noted other reasons for Italy’s high death rate. The country has the world's second-oldest population. Older people are more likely to develop serious illness from the virus. Eighty-seven percent of those who have died from COVID-19 in Italy were over 70.
The Coronavirus Resource Center of Johns Hopkins University reported Thursday that nearly 10,000 people have died from the disease worldwide. The number of infections topped 240,000, including the nearly 85,000 people who have recovered.
In Europe, the small country of Monaco announced that its head of state, Prince Albert, is confirmed to have COVID-19. It said the 62-year-old prince is continuing to work and is being treated by doctors.
After Italy, Spain has been the hardest-hit European country, with more than 17,000 people confirmed to have the new coronavirus. Spain has reported more than 800 deaths. In the capital city of Madrid, 40 hotels have been turned into hospitals for coronavirus patients.
In London, the British government is urging people to stay off public transportation, as officials considered stronger travel restrictions. The 93-year-old Queen Elizabeth said in a speech to the nation, “Many of us will need to find new ways of staying in touch with each other and making sure that loved ones are safe.”
In France, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe urged people to keep their distance from one another to avoid spreading the virus. “When you love someone, you should avoid taking them in your arms,” he said in Parliament.
New infections in Africa
The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the virus is spreading quickly in Africa.
“About 10 days ago we had about five countries” reporting cases of the coronavirus, said the WHO’s Africa chief, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.
Now, 35 of Africa’s 54 countries have cases. It is an “extremely rapid evolution,” she said.
On Thursday, more African countries closed their borders, including Senegal, Angola and Cameroon. Rwanda blocked all flights for a month. Even the island nation of Mauritius closed its border after announcing its first case.
Peter Muteru works as a taxi driver in Kenya. He no longer takes passengers to the airport. He told The Associated Press, “It has reached a point where I carry only people I know.”
In the United States
In the United States, the number of infections has risen above 13,000, as more people are getting tested for the virus. Two members of Congress, Representatives Ben McAdams of Utah and Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, are confirmed to have COVID-19. All 50 American states have now reported at least one case. At least 175 people have died.
The U.S. State Department raised its travel advisory to level 4, the highest level, telling Americans in foreign countries to return home immediately or stay in place.
More than 280,000 Americans signed up for unemployment benefits last week, as businesses closed in many parts of the country. Economists expect the number could go as high as 1 million in the coming weeks.
No new cases in Wuhan, China
Thursday marked the first time since January 20 that Wuhan has reported no new confirmed cases. The central Chinese city has been under lockdown since January.
Jiao Yahui of China’s National Health Commission said, “Today, we have seen the dawn after so many days of hard effort.”
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Hai Do adapted this story for Learning English based on Associated Press and Reuters news reports. Ashley Thompson was the editor.
Words in This Story
virologist - n. a person who study viruses and the diseases they cause
lockdown - n. a state of isolation as a security measure
rapid - adj. happening quickly
evolution - n. a process of change and development
benefit - n. money that is paid by a government
dawn - n. the beginning