Italy and Spain reported their deadliest day yet since the coronavirus outbreak began even as Paris warned that hospitals will be swamped in the next 48 hours.
Italy has become the second country after the US to overtake China in terms of the number of infections, recording a total of 86,498. On the same day, it recorded its single biggest spike in the number of deaths at 919.
More than 300,000 cases have now been reported on the European continent.
The gruesome milestones nevertheless came on the day Italian health officials said they were seeing a slight slowing down in new positive cases, two weeks into a nationwide lockdown.
Italy has recorded more virus-related deaths than any other country in the world. On Friday the death toll reached 9,134.
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 5,402 deaths and 37,298 cases.
That compared with 4,861 deaths and 34,889 cases reported up to Thursday.
Spain’s health ministry on Friday reported another 769 deaths, lifting the total number of fatalities to 4,858. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez convened an emergency cabinet meeting to try to chart a way out of the crisis rapidly engulfing the nation as confirmed cases climbed to 64,059 from 56,188 on Thursday.
Spain’s severely strained health service has 9,444 workers infected, a figure Amnesty International says is the highest among countries affected by the outbreak.
With Italy and Spain now reporting the most deaths worldwide, Europe’s outbreak is stretching health-care systems and in some cases forcing doctors to choose who should live or die.
In France, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said in a speech the government had decided to extend the country’s coronavirus lockdown by two weeks until April 15 hours after he raised the alarm over an “extremely high” surge in coronavirus cases in the country and warned things will be “difficult” in the coming days.
“After these first 10 days of confinement, it is clear that we are just at the beginning of this epidemic wave. It has submerged eastern France and now it is arriving in the Paris region and northern France,” Philippe said.
Futhermore, the spike in patients means hospitals in and around Paris will reach saturation point within 48 hours, the head of the French Hospital Federation warned on Friday.
Paris and its suburbs now account for over a quarter of the 29,000 confirmed coronavirus infections in French hospitals, with almost 1,300 now in intensive care.
“We will be at the limit of our capacities in 24 or 48 hours. We will need to show real solidarity,” Frederic Valletoux, the federation’s president told BFM TV.