ROME • Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has refused to bow to business pressure, and extended the Mediterranean country's economically crippling lockdown until May 3.
Mr Conte made the announcement on Friday, after Italy's official Covid-19 toll climbed by 570 fatalities to 18,849 - more than any other country - but with the growth rate now just a fraction of what it was a few weeks ago.
Media reports had said business unions from regions responsible for 45 per cent of the country's production - and 80 per cent of its coronavirus deaths - had written to Mr Conte warning that companies will be unable to pay wages if the shutdown runs on.
But Mr Conte said Italy could not afford another spike in infections and needed to exercise extra caution in the face of the new disease.
"We are all, I imagine, impatient to get going again," he said in a televised address.
Meanwhile, France on Friday reported 987 more Covid-19 deaths registered in hospitals and nursing homes over the last 24 hours.
The new deaths - including 554 in hospitals and 433 in nursing homes - brought the total toll in France to 13,197 since the epidemic began, top health official Jerome Salomon said.
A child aged under 10 infected with Covid-19 died, but Dr Salomon said that the causes of the death were "multiple".
Spain and Germany yesterday reported the smallest increase in deaths linked to the virus in more than a week. Spain registered the lowest number of coronavirus deaths since March 23, with the toll rising by 510 to 16,353.
Germany also reported a slowdown in the death rate, with the number of fatalities rising by 129 to 2,736, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
More than 122,000 people are infected with the virus in Germany, and Chancellor Angela Merkel last week said progress in defeating the pandemic is "fragile" and that it is too early to relent.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, BLOOMBERG