FLORENCE, ITALY – MARCH 26: Workers continue to produce orphan drugs and medical cannabis while production of disinfectant has started inside the Stabilimento Chimico Farmaceutico Militare (The Military Chemical Pharmaceutical Plant) for the Coronavirus emergency on March 26, 2020 in Florence, Italy.

Laura Lezza

The coronavirus death toll has surpassed 8,000 in Italy, erasing some of the hope seen earlier this week when the number of reported deaths seemed to have slowed down.

The southern European country has struggled to contain the virus since the first confirmed cases emerged in February. Italy, which has been in national lockdown since early March, has more than double the number of deaths than China, where the outbreak first emerged in December.

The death toll jumped by 662 on Thursday, according to the latest data compiled by Italy’s Civil Protection Agency, bringing the total number to 8,165 from 7,503.

There had been some initial hopes earlier this week that the spread could be slowing down. The death toll on Monday had been the smallest increase in four days. However, that has dissipated with the most recent figures. 

As of Thursday, Italy had registered 80,539 cases of COVID-19, of which 10,361 patients have recovered, according to data from the national authorities.

Meanwhile, more than 5,000 people were found to be in breach of the national lockdown rules on Wednesday, according to data from the Italian government. Those breaching lockdown rules could face fines between 400 and 3,000 euros ($440 and $3,300).

Spain’s death toll also higher than China’s 

Meanwhile, in Spain, the death toll has risen by 655 on Thursday, bringing the total to 4,089 so far; according to

from the Spanish government. In China, the death toll is at 3,291; according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

“We are facing an enemy that we do not know at all, which moves fast and in constant evolution,” Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa said Thursday.

MADRID, SPAIN – MARCH 24: Staff members of the funeral home Antonio Álvarez speak with a member of the Military Emergency Unit (UME) and local policemen at the entry to the mall Palacio de Hielo, whose ice rink will be used as a morgue due to local funeral homes being over capacity due to COVID-19 on March 24, 2020 in Madrid, Spain.

Patricia J. Garcinuno

Spain and Italy have been sharply hit by the outbreak, but the virus has spread all over the continent. As a result, economists expect a pronounced economic crisis in the region.

In this context, EU leaders failed to approve new measures to mitigate the economic impact from the virus during a video call on Thursday.

“If we don’t come together now, I don’t know when we will,” Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Costa told reporters after speaking with his EU counterparts.

A lost opportunity?

Southern European nations, including Portugal, Spain and Italy, have pushed for joint European issuance as a fiscal instrument to help their economies. However, the idea, often dubbed as “corona bonds,” has been fiercely opposed by more fiscally conservative countries, such as the Netherlands, Germany and Austria. 

When asked whether Thursday’s discussion was a lost opportunity for the bloc to show solidarity, Alexander de Croo, Belgium’s minister of finance, said “I would think so.”

He described the current crisis as an “asymmetric shock.”

“Through Europe all countries are impacted but some countries are impacted much more,” he said, adding that one of the big differences from the sovereign debt crisis is that the virus is hurting economies of the size of Italy and Spain, not just of the size of Greece.

This requires a bold response from countries that share the same currency, he suggested. Euro zone finance ministers have been mandated to present new ideas to support the economy within two weeks.

 

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