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Italian coronavirus death toll rises by 712 to 8,215

Italy’s coronavirus death toll has today soared by 712 to 8,215 with more than 6,100 new cases recorded, taking the global total past half a million.

The nation’s total number of confirmed cases has risen to 80,539, almost as many as China, where COVID-19 was first detected in December.  

The nation’s Civil Protection Agency reported 712 deaths in Italy today, bringing the country’s death toll to 8,215 – by far the highest in the world. 

There are 510,108 coronavirus cases confirmed worldwide, with 22,993 deaths reported as a result of the virus. 

Italy’s death toll had jumped by 683 to 7,503 on Wednesday, a decline in the daily tally of fatalities following a spike in deaths a day earlier. 

On Tuesday 743 people died, following 602 deaths on Monday, 650 on Sunday and a record of 793 on Saturday – the highest daily figure since the deadly bug emerged in the country on February 21. 

Of those originally infected nationwide, it was today reported 10,361 had fully recovered compared to 9,362 the day before.

There were also said to be 3,612 people in intensive care against a previous 3,489.  

The hardest-hit northern region of Lombardy reported a steep rise in fatalities compared with the day before and remains in a critical situation, with a total of 4,861 deaths and 34,889 cases.

This compares with 4,474 deaths and 32,346 cases reported up to Wednesday. 

The World Health Organisation said there were ‘encouraging signs’ after Italy’s latest numbers were released, but warned it was ‘still too early to say whether the pandemic is peaking’. 

But today’s numbers mean Italy has almost surpassed China as the nation with the most confirmed cases of the deadly virus. 

There are 81,782 reported cases of COVID-19 in China, where some 61,201 people have recovered from the pandemic in the Wuhan province alone.  

The Italian jump in cases comes as the Vatican today announced it is testing dozens of priests who live in the same residence as Pope Francis for coronavirus.

Contingency plans are also in place to move those who are diagnosed with the disease elsewhere, an insider added. 

A priest who lives in the Santa Marta residence and works in the Secretariat of State had recently tested positive for the virus and was hospitalised in Italy. 

The Vatican source was one of several officials who expressed concern about a possible flare-up in the residence where the pope has lived since 2013.

The modern residence, which has 130 rooms and suites and a staff of about 30 people, is also home to dozens of priests who continue to work in key Vatican departments. 

‘Santa Marta may be a bomb waiting to explode,’ said one of the officials, who was not identified.

Pope Francis has tested negative for coronavirus twice in recent weeks, according to Italian media reports.   

There are currently around 50 permanent residents in Santa Marta, which is run like a hotel and stopped accepting bookings for temporary visitors earlier this month.

Half of the residents were tested on Wednesday and the other half were being tested on Thursday, a source said, adding that the plan is to move those who test positive to a Church-run hotel for pilgrims in Rome. 

Senior Vatican officials who live elsewhere inside the city-state are also being tested, another insider added. 

‘I consider it a potentially serious public health issue,’ said one official.

Until recently, Pope Francis took his meals in a common dining room but he has recently been eating in his suite, it was reported.

The Pope is 83 and part of one of his lungs was removed following an illness when he was a young man.

One source who enters the residence regularly said precautions have been taken such as encouraging social distancing and making hand sanitisers available.

Since March 6, the Vatican has issued at least five notices or decrees that mirror steps taken in Italy, by far the hardest hit country in Europe.

They include recommendations to communicate by phone even with people in the same office, alternating shifts and encouraging as much work from home as possible. 

‘The Church will continue without the Roman Curia working for a few weeks,’ one official said.

‘This policy to keep all the offices open is worrying. My department can be closed for months without any damage,’ another added.

The Pope has cancelled public appearances since the outbreak of coronavirus across Italy and is conducting his general audiences via television and the internet.   

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