An overwhelmed Italian city at the heart of the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday sent more of its dead to nearby towns for cremation as the country’s world-leading toll topped 8,000.
Officials in Rome reported 662 new deaths and 6,153 infections — largely in line with the figures reported throughout the week.
The rise in daily deaths edged down to the lowest point in the crisis — 8.8 percent — while the infection rate stood at around eight percent for the fourth day running.
But the numbers are not dropping much further and Italians appear to be coming to terms with the realisation that two weeks of life under lockdown have not made the disease go away.
“Until we see this damn rate drop, we will have to continue making very hard sacrifices,” deputy civil protection service chief Agostino Miozzo said in reference to the ever-tightening containment measures.
Italy’s coronavirus death toll now stands at 8,165 — more than that of second-placed Spain and China, where the virus emerged in December, combined.
– ‘Crematoriums could not cope’ –
The endless flood of victims forced the city of Bergamo at Italy’s northern epicentre of the pandemic to send still more bodies to less burdened crematoriums in neighbouring towns.
An AFP photographer saw six camouflage green army trucks transporting coffins out of a Bergamo cemetery on Thursday.
“The large number of victims has meant that Bergamo’s crematorium could not cope on its own,” mayor Giorgio Gori said in a statement released to AFP.
The mayor said the city had also received 113 urns with the ashes of bodies that had been sent out for cremation earlier this week.
The bodies in the city of about 120,000 people are literally piling up.
A warehouse in the commune of Ponte San Pietro on Bergamo’s western outskirts held 35 freshly-made wooden coffins Thursday that were destined for cremation at a later date.
Still more coffins filled a barren church hall in the Seriate commune to Bergamo’s east.
A priest said a quiet prayer over the rows of coffins and a single red rose rested atop one in the otherwise empty room.
– Anxious south –
Yet the Italian government is just as anxious about the northern crisis spilling over into the far less developed south.
The head of the Campania region that includes Naples warned of a “dramatic explosion” of infections based on this week’s trends.
“The next 10 days will be hell for us,” governor Vincenzo De Luca said in an open letter to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
The number of officially registered deaths in Campania — Italy’s third-most-populous with nearly six million people — rose from 29 on Sunday to 83 on Thursday.
But no southern region has recorded more than 100 coronavirus fatalities to date.
Italy’s latest figures confirm that COVID-19 overwhelmingly kills the elderly and the sick.
Data from Italy’s first 5,542 fatalities show that 98.6 percent of the victims already suffered from at least one ailment or pre-existing condition.
Slightly over half had three or more other health problems when they died.
Only 29.1 percent of the victims were women. The disparity has been observed elsewhere and still puzzles doctors around the world.
The average age of victims was 78 — a fraction lower than the 78.8 reported last week based on the first 3,200 deaths.
But Italian virologist Roberto Burioni said the figures were “not particularly reliable” because the country was primarily testing people who already exhibited flu-like symptoms.
Italy’s death rate among the confirmed COVID-19 cases — 10.1 percent — was thus much higher than in countries with broad-based testing such as South Korea.
This Europe country is housing quarantined coronavirus patients in a five-star hotel
An ambulance driver wearing a white protective gown enters a Barcelona hotel and announces the arrival of three new "customers" -- a trio of coronavirus patients discharged from hospital into luxury quarantine.
"Good morning! How are you? My name is Enrique Aranda and I am probably the first non health care worker you see in several days," says the director of the five-star Melia Sarria hotel, peering into the ambulance.
It took just three days to convert the hotel, which features contemporary decor and bathrooms with marble finishing, into a clinic.
"Some patients arrive thinking that they were taken out of hospital to be left to die, many people are frightened. I try to make them forget all that," said Aranda, wearing mask and gloves.
UK Labour to unveil new leader to replace Jeremy Corbyn
Britain's main opposition Labour party on Saturday unveils a new leader who will take the helm of a defeated and divided party in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.
Keir Starmer, a former director of state prosecutions and Labour's Brexit spokesman, is the runaway favourite to win the ballot of around 500,000 party members and succeed Jeremy Corbyn.
The announcement will be a low-key affair, with a planned special conference cancelled due to restrictions on social gatherings imposed to stem the spread of COVID-19.
Instead, the result will be put out in a press release mid-morning -- and candidates have been asked to pre-record their victory speeches.
‘Trump fires people for telling the truth’: President blasted for ‘dead of night decision’ to fire intel watchdog
President Donald Trump was harshly criticized on Friday for firing intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson.
House Intel Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Senate Intel Ranking Member Mark Warner (D-VA) were among the lawmakers who took to Twitter to criticize Trump on his favorite social media platform.
Here's some of what people were saying about Trump's decision:
Trump’s dead of night decision to fire ICIG Michael Atkinson is another blatant attempt to gut the independence of the Intelligence Community and retaliate against those who dare to expose presidential wrongdoing.