Italy has seen more fatalities than any other country, with latest figures showing that 6,820 people have died from the infection in barely a month.
Fatalities in Italy from coronavirus have surged in the last 24 hours, the Civil Protection Agency said on Wednesday, dashing hopes that the epidemic in the world’s worst hit country was easing after more encouraging numbers in the previous two days.
The death toll rose by 743 on Tuesday, the second highest daily tally since the outbreak emerged in northern regions on February 21, and up steeply from the 602 recorded on Monday.
Italy has seen more fatalities than any other country, with the latest figures showing that 6,820 people have died from the infection in barely a month.
The total number of confirmed cases hit 69,176 on Wednesday, but with Italy testing only people with severe symptoms, the head of the Civil Protection Agency said the true number of infected people was probably 10 times higher.
“A ratio of one certified case out of every 10 is credible,” Angelo Borrelli told La Repubblica newspaper, indicating he believed some 700,000 people could have been infected.
France became the fifth country to report more than 1,000 deaths from coronavirus on Wednesday and a government body dealing with the outbreak suggested the national lockdown imposed last week for an initial 15 days should last at least six weeks.
Health agency chief Jerome Salomon said later that France would soon be able to conduct 10,000 tests a day.
Salomon reported 240 new deaths from coronavirus on Tuesday for a total of 1,100, an increase of 28 percent that made France the fifth nation to cross the 1,000-fatalities threshold after China, Italy, Iran and Spain.
This tally only accounts for people who died in public hospitals, whereas several retirement homes have been reporting deaths in the double digits.
Salomon said health authorities would soon be able to tabulate data coming from retirement homes, which will likely trigger a more dramatic increase in registered fatalities.
He said the total number of infections in France had risen to 22,300, a 12 percent jump in 24 hours.
Salomon added that 2,516 people were in a serious condition requiring life support, up by 21 percent from Monday and that 8,000 hospital beds were now equipped with ventilators.
Nurses and doctors demanded action after Spain reported its sharpest daily increase in coronavirus cases on Tuesday and said about 14 percent of the nearly 40,000 infections were among health workers
Nursing union SATSE said Madrid’s hospitals were on “the verge of collapse” and needed urgent support, while a doctors’ union said it had filed a lawsuit demanding protective equipment within 24 hours.
The capital’s Palacio de Hielo mall, home to an Olympic-sized ice rink, began operating as a makeshift mortuary after authorities said facilities were unable to cope.
The Health Ministry reported around 6,600 new cases and 500 deaths overnight. Spain is Europe’s worst-hit country after Italy and has recorded 2,696 deaths.
Health emergency chief Fernando Simon attributed the nearly 14 percent infection rate among medical staff to limited availability of protective equipment and several early clusters of the virus occurring in hospitals.
He said pressure on intensive-care units would continue even after transmission of the virus among the general population had peaked.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the Netherlands rose by 811 on Wednesday, a 17 percent increase from a day earlier, to a total of 5,560, health authorities said.
There were 63 new deaths, the largest increase yet, bringing the country’s total to 276, the National Institute for Health said in a daily update.
The institute said it expected measures undertaken in the Netherlands this month, such as closing restaurants, and schools and a ban on public gatherings, would only begin to show up in the case numbers “at the end of this week or beginning of next week”.
The number of cases in Germany has risen to 33,952 with 164 deaths, the country's federal health institute reported on Wednesday.
Germany has also been more rigorous than some other EU countries in testing for coronavirus.