COVID-19 pandemic continues to ravage Europe with death toll charging toward 20,000

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Photo taken on March 21, 2020 shows the field hospital set up at the IFEMA Exhibition center in Madrid, Spain. [Photo/Xinhua]

The COVID-19 pandemic continued to overrun Europe, with the death toll in Italy and the UK passing 10,000 and 1,000 marks, respectively, on Saturday.

According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), as of Saturday, the pandemic has hit 201 countries and regions with 571,678 confirmed cases, of which 324,761 cases, or 56.8 percent, were recorded in Europe.

The pandemic deaths have risen to 26,495 worldwide, of which 18,743, or 70.7 percent, were registered in Europe, the WHO data showed. Among the hardest-hit European nations are Italy, Spain, Germany, France and the UK, all of which had introduced lockdowns of varying severity.

More medical supplies reach Italy

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed 10,023 lives in locked-down Italy as of Saturday, with the cumulative total infections reaching 92,472, according to new data released by the Civil Protection Department.

As health service is buckling under the strains of unrelenting infections, Italy continues to purchase supplies for hospitals and emergency personnel who are on the frontlines of the fight against the virus.

The Public Informational Services Dealer (CONSIP), a procurement company owned by the Ministry of Finance, said Saturday that it has obtained a delivery of medical supplies from various parts of the world.

The supplies consist of around 100,000 endotracheal tubes, over 870,000 surgical masks, 12 million items of protective gear for medical and civil protection staff, and almost 170,000 test swabs for the virus.

CONSIP added that 370 intensive and sub-intensive care ventilators arrived from Hong Kong earlier in the day.

Meanwhile, the Albanian government has sent a medical team of 30 doctors and nurses to Italy on Saturday to assist the fight against coronavirus infections.

Albanian Prime Minister Edi Rama, seeing off the team before their departure, said Albania and Albanians will never abandon their friends in difficult times.

Spain to add new restrictions

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez of Spain, second only to Italy in terms of confirmed cases in Europe, said Saturday that his cabinet will approve a measure that obliges all non-essential workers to remain at home for the next two weeks.

Sanchez said the measure will come into effect on Monday, March 30, and last until April 9.

"We have almost seven days of Easter ahead of us and that is why we propose this as the moment to close non-essential economic activities, so people who work in these non-essential activities can still be paid," he said in a televised speech.

The prime minister added that workers would be able to make up the hours of work they miss over the rest of the year.

Spain was in its 14th day of a State of Alarm, which began on March 14 and will last until at least April 12. The State of Alarm has drastically limited freedom of movement and closed all restaurants, bars and shops, except those selling "essential products."

Saturday saw the number of deaths in Spain from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, rise to 5,690, with 72,248 cases confirmed by the country's Ministry of Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Services.

France steps up 'long-term' effort

In France, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Saturday that the combat to contain rapid-circulating coronavirus epidemic "has only just begun" as the government was stepping up "long-term intense effort."

"I will tell you things with clarity and frankness: the first 15 days of April will be difficult, harder than those we have just gone through," Philippe said in a press conference.

"We are in a difficult period. We are setting up in a fight that will last. We will win the combat by respecting confinement and barrier gestures," he added, stressing that "France is armed and it is not alone."

On March 17, France placed its 67 million population under a two-week containment. Tough restrictions on people's movement would remain in place until at least April 15.

As of Saturday, infections in France rose by further 4,611 to 37, 575 while a total of 2,314 people had died, an increase of 319 within a day.

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