Record 627 deaths in Italy; military vehicles said used to transport bodies
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Italy now has 36.6 percent of world's coronavirus deaths

Record 627 deaths in Italy; military vehicles said used to transport bodies

1,500 deaths in three days; officials call for even stronger measures to stop spread; 40,000 infected but top scientist says true figure could be 100 times higher

A convoy of Italian military vehicles reportedly being used to transport bodies of coronavirus fatalities for burial, March 19, 2020 (Youtube screenshot)
A convoy of Italian military vehicles reportedly being used to transport bodies of coronavirus fatalities for burial, March 19, 2020 (Youtube screenshot)

ROME — Italy on Friday reported a record 627 new deaths from the novel coronavirus and saw its world-leading toll surpass 4,000 despite government efforts to stem the pandemic’s spread.

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

Italy’s previous one-day record death toll was 475 on Wednesday. Italy has seen more than 1,500 fatalities from COVID-19 in the past three days alone.

It has now recorded the five highest one-day tolls officially registered around the world.

Italian media broadcast pictures it said was military vehicles brought into the Bergamo area to transport away the hundreds of coffins.

Italy’s total number of deaths now stands and 4,032. Infections rose by nearly 6,000 to 47,021.

The nation of 60 million currently accounts for 36.6 percent of the world’s coronavirus deaths after surpassing China’s total on Thursday.

The soaring numbers come despite a national lockdown that drastically limits when residents are allowed to leave their homes. Police have issued citations to thousands of people for being out and about without valid reasons, such as going to work or shopping for food.

A man wearing a face mask (R) stands by the coffin of his mother, as a priest swings a thurible of incense during a funeral service in the closed cemetery of Seriate, near Bergamo, Lombardy, on March 20, 2020, during the Italy’s lockdown aimed at stopping the spread of the new coronavirus. (Piero Cruciatti / AFP)

Mayors and governors throughout the country have been demanding even stricter measures. Italy’s national government is widely expected to respond soon.

For days now, Italian authorities have said at daily briefings that the virus outbreak that emerged in northern Italy four weeks ago could reach its peak in a matter of days and the number of new infections might start going down.

“There are so many people walking around who have the virus and who are at risk of infecting others,” Matteo Bassetti, the director of the infectious diseases department at Genoa’s San Martino clinic, told Italy’s AGI news agency.

A person rides a bicycle on a deserted street near he Colosseum in Rome on March 20, 2020, during the country’s lockdown aimed at stopping the spread of the new coronavirus. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP)

“The 40,000 cases we are talking about could actually be 100 times higher.”

The Italian government intends to extend a ban on public gatherings and the shutdown of almost all businesses past their March 25 deadline.

Regional leaders and city mayors are urging the Italian government to adopt even tougher restrictions such as a ban on outdoor exercises and the closure of all stores on Sundays.

Time of Israel Staff contributed to this report

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