Italian coronavirus deaths jump sharply to 148
Rome - The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has risen by 41 over the past 24 hours to 148, the Civil Protection Agency said on Thursday, with the contagion still showing no sign of slowing.
The accumulative number of cases in the country, which has been hardest hit by the virus in Europe, totalled 3858, up from 3089 on Wednesday.
The head of the agency said that of those originally infected, 414 had fully recovered versus 276 the day before.
The contagion came to light 14 days ago and is focused on a handful of hotspots in the north of Italy. However, cases have now been confirmed in each of the country's 20 regions.
Italy said on Thursday that it would double the sum it initially planned to tackle its coronavirus outbreak, saying funds were urgently needed to help the health service as well as families, firms and workers.
Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri told a news conference the government would spend 7.5 billion euros (R131 billion) and ask the European Union for the go-ahead to hike this year's deficit goal, currently set at 2.2% of gross domestic product.
The new target of around 2.5% of GDP will first need to be approved by parliament in a vote expected for next week.
On Sunday the minister had promised a smaller package worth 3.6 billion euros, a sum which the opposition and much of Italy's media deemed inadequate.
"Nobody must lose their job because of coronavirus," Gualtieri said, promising a moratorium on credits held by banks in the worst affected areas.
The draconian measures introduced to try to contain the highly infectious disease are taking a heavy toll on an economy which was already close to recession, with a huge immediate hit to tourism.
Industry lobby Confindustria is predicting a fall in gross domestic product in both the first and second quarters of this year.Reuters