The coronavirus pandemic is showing a mixed picture in Europe, as Britain’s death toll surpassed 20,000 on Saturday, making it the fifth nation globally to pass that grim milestone, after the United States, Italy, Spain and France.
In contrast, mainland European countries are seeing more welcome signs, which allow them to plan to relax economy-crushing lockdown measures. In worst-hit countries like Italy, Spain and France, new infection cases and new deaths continued to drop.
Across Europe, almost 1.2 million confirmed COVID-19 cases had been reported, with 116,672 deaths, as of 10:00 a.m. CET (0800 GMT) on Saturday, according to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
TRAGIC MILESTONE IN UK
The COVID-19 outbreak is still growing in Britain. Official data on Saturday showed that a further 813 people had died of COVID-19 in a 24-hour span, taking the total number of COVID-19 deaths in hospitals to 20,319 as of Friday afternoon.
According to the Department of Health and Social Care, 148,377 cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Britain as of Saturday morning.
“As the deaths caused by this terrible virus pass another tragic and terrible milestone, the entire nation is grieving,” British Home Secretary Priti Patel said at Saturday’s Downing Street media briefing.
Without drawing on when the current restrictions on movement would be lifted, Patel said it was imperative that people continue to follow the rules designed to protect their loved ones.
“Our instruction remains clear. People should stay at home, protect the NHS (National Health Service) and save lives,” she said.
National Medical Director of NHS England, Stephen Powis, said Saturday that COVID-19 is a “once-in-a-century global health crisis” and will continue to be something “we work through in the months ahead.”
One of Britain’s leading public health experts told Xinhua on Saturday that the real death toll could be higher than the official figure which does not take account of people who died in care homes or at home.
Professor John Ashton, a former president of the British Faculty of Public Health, said: “Essentially there are four separate epidemics running in parallel, in hospitals, care homes, prisons and in the home. The official figures issued relate mainly to hospital deaths, but the others are gathering momentum.”
FATALITIES EASE IN ITALY, FRANCE
In another sign of encouragement, Italy reported on Saturday 415 new deaths related to COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, down from 420 a day earlier and also the smallest daily increase since March 18.
Total active infections stood at 105,847, down by 680 cases compared to the previous day, according to fresh figures from the Italian Civil Protection Department. This is the sixth consecutive daily drop in the number of active infections in Italy.
There were 2,622 more recoveries compared to Friday, bringing the nationwide total to 63,120.
Domenico Arcuri, the Italian government’s special commissioner for the coronavirus emergency, said at Saturday’s press conference that blood testing for antibodies to the new coronavirus — to find out what percentage, if any, of the population has unknowingly come in contact with the virus at some point — will begin on May 4.
The serological survey is a key part of Italy’s public health strategy to contain the virus during Phase Two of the emergency, when businesses will gradually reopen and isolation measures will be eased after the end of the lockdown on May 3.
France also confirmed gradually improved coronavirus-related data. The country reported 369 new deaths on Saturday, lower than 389 on Friday and 516 on Thursday, fresh figures showed.
Hospital admissions in France fell by 436 to 28,222. Some 4,725 positive cases were in intensive care units, down by 145 over the last 24 hours.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will present to the parliament on Tuesday the government’s plan on gradually lifting the country’s coronavirus lockdown, his office said on Saturday.
The French government is set to unwind two-month confinement on May 11. Schools would be reopened in several stages, with much smaller classes and on a voluntary basis. Retail activities will resume with strict rules to limit the number of people in shops at the same time.
In neighboring Spain, health authorities said that 22,902 people in the country have succumbed to COVID-19, after reporting 378 deaths in the 24-hour period until 2100 hours local time Friday.
The daily figure is 11 more than the 367 deaths reported a day earlier, but it is the third time that fewer than 400 deaths have been recorded in a 24-hour period this week.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday that people in Spain will be able to leave their homes for “individual sporting activity” from May 2.
This would mean an important lifting of the ‘State of Alarm’ restrictions, which have been put in place since March 15.
“Tomorrow, a new extension of the ‘State of Alarm’ comes into effect, but we will start to allow small relaxations of the restrictions, such as allowing children outside,” Sanchez said. Enditem