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Italy now has nearly as many coronavirus cases as China as infections soar to 80,539 and death toll rises by 712 to 8,215 as global cases total goes past half a million

Daily Mail logo Daily Mail 26/03/2020 Faith Ridler For Mailonline
An operator sanitises streets in Venice, Italy © Getty An operator sanitises streets in Venice, Italy

Italy's coronavirus death toll has today soared by 712 to 8,215 with more than 6,100 new cases recorded, taking the global total past half a million.

The nation's total number of confirmed cases has risen to 80,539, almost as many as China, where COVID-19 was first detected in December.  

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The nation's Civil Protection Agency reported 712 deaths in Italy today, bringing the country's death toll to 8,215 - by far the highest in the world. 

There are 510,108 coronavirus cases confirmed worldwide, with 22,993 deaths reported as a result of the virus. 

a person sitting on a bench in front of a brick building: Pictured: Pallbearers bring a coffin to be stored in the church of San Giuseppe in Seriate, near Bergamo, Lombardy, today amid the country's coronavirus lockdown © Provided by Daily Mail Pictured: Pallbearers bring a coffin to be stored in the church of San Giuseppe in Seriate, near Bergamo, Lombardy, today amid the country's coronavirus lockdown

Italy's death toll had jumped by 683 to 7,503 on Wednesday, a decline in the daily tally of fatalities following a spike in deaths a day earlier. 

On Tuesday 743 people died, following 602 deaths on Monday, 650 on Sunday and a record of 793 on Saturday - the highest daily figure since the deadly bug emerged in the country on February 21. 

Of those originally infected nationwide, it was today reported 10,361 had fully recovered compared to 9,362 the day before.

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There were also said to be 3,612 people in intensive care against a previous 3,489.  

The hardest-hit northern region of Lombardy reported a steep rise in fatalities compared with the day before and remains in a critical situation, with a total of 4,861 deaths and 34,889 cases.

That compared with 4,474 deaths and 32,346 cases reported up to Wednesday. 

a man and a woman standing in front of a building: A coffin is carried to be aligned with others on the floor in the San Giuseppe church in Seriate, one of the areas worst hit by coronavirus, near Bergamo, Italy today

A coffin is carried to be aligned with others on the floor in the San Giuseppe church in Seriate, one of the areas worst hit by coronavirus, near Bergamo, Italy today
© Provided by Daily Mail

The World Health Organisation said there were 'encouraging signs' after Italy's latest numbers were released, but warned it was 'still too early to say whether the pandemic is peaking'. 

But today's numbers mean Italy has almost surpassed China as the nation with the most confirmed cases of the deadly virus. 

There are 81,782 reported cases of COVID-19 in China, where some 61,201 people have recovered from the pandemic in the Wuhan province alone.  

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The jump in cases comes as the Vatican today announced it is testing dozens of priests who live in the same residence as Pope Francis for coronavirus.

Contingency plans are also in place to move those who are diagnosed with the disease elsewhere, an insider added. 

A priest who lives in the Santa Marta residence and works in the Secretariat of State had recently tested positive for the virus and was hospitalised in Italy. 

a truck that is driving down the road: A convoy of military vehicles arrives at the Monumental Cemetery in Bergamo today © Provided by Daily Mail A convoy of military vehicles arrives at the Monumental Cemetery in Bergamo today Doctors treat COVID-19 patients in an intensive care unit at the third Covid 3 Hospital (Istituto clinico CasalPalocco) during the coronavirus emergency in Rome © Provided by Daily Mail Doctors treat COVID-19 patients in an intensive care unit at the third Covid 3 Hospital (Istituto clinico CasalPalocco) during the coronavirus emergency in Rome

The Vatican source was one of several officials who expressed concern about a possible flare-up in the residence where the pope has lived since 2013.

The modern residence, which has 130 rooms and suites and a staff of about 30 people, is also home to dozens of priests who continue to work in key Vatican departments. 

'Santa Marta may be a bomb waiting to explode,' said one of the officials, who was not identified.

Pope Francis has tested negative for coronavirus twice in recent weeks, according to Italian media reports.   

There are currently around 50 permanent residents in Santa Marta, which is run like a hotel and stopped accepting bookings for temporary visitors earlier this month.

Coffins of coronavirus victims are stored in a warehouse in Ponte San Pietro, near Bergamo in Lombardy © Provided by Daily Mail Coffins of coronavirus victims are stored in a warehouse in Ponte San Pietro, near Bergamo in Lombardy a person standing in front of a brick building: A man wears a face mask as he waits outside the San Guiseppe church, where coffins of the deceased have been stored in Italy © Provided by Daily Mail A man wears a face mask as he waits outside the San Guiseppe church, where coffins of the deceased have been stored in Italy

Half of the residents were tested on Wednesday and the other half were being tested on Thursday, a source said, adding that the plan is to move those who test positive to a Church-run hotel for pilgrims in Rome. 

Senior Vatican officials who live elsewhere inside the city-state are also being tested, another insider added. 

'I consider it a potentially serious public health issue,' said one official.

Until recently, Pope Francis took his meals in a common dining room but he has recently been eating in his suite, it was reported.

The Pope is 83 and part of one of his lungs was removed following an illness when he was a young man.

Pope Francis wearing a suit and tie: The jump in cases comes as the Vatican today announced it is testing dozens of priests who live in the same residence as Pope Francis (pictured today) for coronavirus © Provided by Daily Mail The jump in cases comes as the Vatican today announced it is testing dozens of priests who live in the same residence as Pope Francis (pictured today) for coronavirus

One source who enters the residence regularly said precautions have been taken such as encouraging social distancing and making hand sanitisers available.

Since March 6, the Vatican has issued at least five notices or decrees that mirror steps taken in Italy, by far the hardest hit country in Europe.

They include recommendations to communicate by phone even with people in the same office, alternating shifts and encouraging as much work from home as possible. 

'The Church will continue without the Roman Curia working for a few weeks,' one official said.

'This policy to keep all the offices open is worrying. My department can be closed for months without any damage,' another added.

The Pope has cancelled public appearances since the outbreak of coronavirus across Italy and is conducting his general audiences via television and the internet.   

Stay at home to stop coronavirus spreading - here is what you can and can't do. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland, anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.


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