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Nations act to halt coronavirus spread as toll grows

Lockdown: A woman waits to enter an isolation tent in Brescia, Italy PICTURE: AP

ITALY’S coronavirus death toll has hit at least 1,000 as the number of positive cases continues its upward trend.

With the nation on lockdown, more than half of those in intensive care are in the hard-hit Lombardy region, which yesterday reported 605 of its 610 intensive care beds were occupied.

Health official Giulio Gallera said, at the request of hospitals, the region had simplified the bureaucracy needed to process death certificates and speed up burial of the dead.

It was also announced last night that all the churches in Rome will close until at least April 3.

France’s president Emmanuel Macron last night ordered all schools and universities to shut from Monday, as the French death toll reached 60.

He urged French citizens to avoid shaking hands or kissing each other.

‘These gestures may sound anodyne, but they can save lives,’ he said.

‘We will close frontiers if necessary, but only in co-ordination with the EU.’

Elsewhere, Princess Cruises has announced it would pause global operations on its 18 ships until May 10.

The company owns the Diamond Princess, on which hundreds of passengers and crew became infected while held in quarantine in Japan.

Meanwhile, a consignment of medical supplies — including 1.8million masks — sent by China to help Italy and Spain has arrived in Europe.

Spain has increased its response to the outbreak, closing schools and suspending parliament after a minister tested positive. The Czech government has declared a state of emergency and is renewing checks at its borders with Austria and Germany.

Prime minister Andrej Babis said people from 13 risk countries — including Britain — would not be allowed to enter the Czech Republic.

Turkey confirmed its first coronavirus case on Wednesday, becoming the last major economy to report an outbreak after taking what the World Health Organization described as ‘vigilant, cautious’ measures.

It has closed schools for a week and universities for three weeks from Monday. Sporting events will be held without spectators until the end of April.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said: ‘When you look at the global picture, we can see the measures taken in Turkey are effective.’

IRAN has asked for £3.9billion to help it fight coronavirus after the death toll rose by 75 to 429, with more than 10,000 cases. The Islamic Republic has made the loan request to the International Monetary Fund, which has promised to support countries hit by the pandemic. All Iran’s neighbours are refusing to let its citizens cross their borders and multiple nations have imposed travel restrictions, some of which affect trade.