Coronavirus: Italy records second-most virus deaths, infections after China

Consumers wait in long lines to go shopping at a supermarket due to restrictive quotas for entry, in San Donato Milanese, near Milan, northern Italy, on March 8, 2020. PHOTO: EPA-EFE/ANSA

ROME (AFP, REUTERS) - Italy on Sunday (March 8) recorded the second-highest coronavirus toll in the world, after reporting a sharp jump in deaths and overtaking South Korea on infections.

The number of fatalities nearly tripled, rising from 133 to 366 Sunday, according to the civil protection agency, with most deaths occurring in the hard-hit Lombardy region in Italy's wealthy north.

The country now has the most deaths of any country outside China, and the second-most Covid-19 infections in the world, after the number of cases rose by a single-day record of 1,492 to 7,375.

South Korea currently has some 7,313 cases, and Sunday said its rate of infection was slowing.

Civil protection agency chief Angelo Borrelli said Italy was ordering 22 million surgical masks to help stop the spread.

Over 15 million Italians were adjusting to life in lockdown after the government issued a decree shutting off whole swathes of the north, including the city of Venice and the financial capital Milan.

It was not clear, however, how strictly the order would be enforced, or how authorities could prevent people from leaving.

Preventative measures were also imposed on the rest of the country, including the closure of all museums and monuments.

Meanwhile, Alitalia said on Sunday it was suspending national and international flights to and from Milan's Malpensa airport from March 9 after the government ordered a lockdown of large areas of northern Italy to stem coronavirus contagion.

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In a statement, the Italian flag carrier said it would operate only national flights from the smaller Milan Linate airport, and reduce the number of flights between Venice and Rome.

International routes will be served from Rome's Fiumicino airport. The new regime will continue until at least April 3, the airline said.

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