In Italy, a jump in the number of new deaths and cases over the last 24 hours dashed hopes fed by two days of declines. The 743 deaths reported Tuesday pushed Italy’s toll past 6,800, by far the highest of any country.
“Woe to whoever lets down the guard,” Health Minister Roberto Speranza said. ”Now, more than ever, the commitment of everyone is needed.”
In a distinct shift in the crisis, some 85% of new infections are coming from Europe and the United States. In fact, Chinese authorities said they would finally end the two-month lockdown in hard-hit Hubei province, where the outbreak first began.
World Health Organization spokeswoman Margaret Harris said cases around the world are expected to increase “considerably.”
“Just to put it in proportion: It took two years in the worst Ebola outbreak we ever had, the West African outbreak, to reach 11,000 deaths,” she said.
In Britain, confusion rippled through the country on the first morning after Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered a three-week halt to all nonessential activity. The government told most stores to close, banned gatherings of three or more people and said everyone apart from essential workers should leave home only to buy food and medicine or to exercise. But photos showed crowded trains on some London subway lines.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan tweeted: “Ignoring these rules means more lives lost.” For most people, the virus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever or coughing. But for some older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. More than 100,000 people have recovered.
Elsewhere around the world, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi decreed a “total lockdown” of the country for 21 days. India has reported about 500 cases. “To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” Modi said.
Neighboring Pakistan ordered its railways shut down as infections climbed past 900. The Philippine Congress approved a bill declaring a national emergency and authorizing President Rodrigo Duterte to launch a huge program and tap private hospitals and ships to help as the virus outbreak starts to take hold in the country, which reported more than 550 cases.
In contrast to other European countries, Germany offered some hope that it has flattened the exponential spread of the virus, which has infected some 30,000 people. The death toll was relatively low at about 130, and Germany has even taken in patients from France and Italy for treatment.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government approved a massive aid package to counter the economic fallout, offering more than 1 trillion euros ($1.1 trillion) to tide over small companies and entrepreneurs and pump capital into bigger companies.