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Italian Prime Minister: Coronavirus is ‘Most Difficult Crisis in Our Postwar Period’ 


A moment of a funeral service without relatives in the cemetery of Zogno, near Bergamo, Northern Italy, Saturday, March 21, 2020. Italy’s tally of coronavirus cases and deaths keeps rising, with new day-to-day highs: 793 dead and 6,557 new cases…

Europe is now the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak as the virus continues to spread. New cases in China, where the outbreak began, have started to decline.

All nonessential businesses in hard-hit Italy have been ordered to close as the country battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is the most difficult crisis in our postwar period,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said.

Italy recorded nearly 800 deaths from the virus Saturday.

There are 53,578 confirmed cases of the virus in Italy, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

Cuba has deployed a group of doctors and nurses to help Italy combat the virus.

The European Union Commission has reassured Italy that the country’s debt will not keep it from borrowing money to deal with the virus. In an interview with Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera newspaper, EU Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said, “What we all understand is that no member state can face this threat alone. The virus has no borders and the European Union is stronger when we show full solidarity.”

Spain, meanwhile, is bracing as it anticipates the impact from the virus. “The worst is yet to come,” the government said Saturday.

Spanish officials have warned that the situation could soon overcome the country’s health care system.

Spain began a 15-day state of emergency more than a week ago, allowing only essential outings.

Spain has 25,496 confirmed cases, according to Johns Hopkins.

Germany, another hard-hit country with more than 22,000 cases, is trying to increase the number of intensive care beds, which now total 28,000, by establishing temporary hospitals in hotels, rehabilitation clinics and other facilities.

Britain has shut down dining establishments, bars and other leisure businesses in its efforts to bring a halt to the virus.

Elsewhere in the world

In Africa, cases have emerged in Angola, Eritrea, South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the country’s residents to self-isolate Sunday and millions complied, rendering India’s usually jam-packed thoroughfares nearly empty.

Modi asked for the 14-hour lockdown to give workers a chance to sanitize public spaces.

Malaysia has called in the army to help police enforce a two-week travel ban.

Defense Minister Ismail Sabri Yaakob said Sunday there was “90% compliance, but 10% is not a small number.”

Gaza reported its first two virus cases Saturday. Officials say the two are in quarantine.

Situation in the US

Millions of Americans are under orders from their state and local governments to stay home, venturing out only for essential needs, including trips to pharmacies, supermarkets, and gas stations, and for solo exercise.

U.S. lawmakers are attempting to create legislation that could deliver direct payments to workers and businesses affected by the crisis.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has granted an emergency authorization to Cepheid, a U.S. company, to use its rapid coronavirus tests.

The tests, which produce results in 45 minutes, initially will be made available to hospital and emergency rooms, and then to “patient care settings” such as doctor's offices. The company plans to begin selling the tests at the end of March.

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