Coronavirus: Italy extends lockdown amid hopes of turning corner

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Medical staff at a newly set up intensive care unit in the Poliambilanza hospital in Brescia, Italy, 30 March 2020Image source, EPA

Italy has extended its lockdown until Easter, but there is some hope as the country reports a declining infection rate.

The number of new coronavirus infections reported on Monday was 1,648, as opposed to 3,815 the previous day.

The death toll, however, rose again, with 812 deaths reported, compared with 756 the day before.

Italy believes the peak of its crisis will come in just over a week's time.

It is the world's hardest hit country in terms of number of deaths.

In total, 11,591 have died in the country, the government says.

On Monday, the national doctors' association announced the deaths of 11 more doctors, taking the total up to 61.

The lockdown - which was due to end on Friday - will now continue until at least 12 April, which is Easter Sunday.

Italians have been living under these strict rules for three weeks, with most shops, bars and restaurants shut. They are not allowed to leave their homes unless it is deemed essential.

The governor of the southern region of Puglia said on Saturday the restrictions should remain in place until May.

What else is happening in Europe?

  • Spain's total of people testing positive has reached 85,195 - higher than that of China, where the outbreak began. Spain is the worst-hit country after Italy, with 7,340 deaths in total. But Foreign Minister Arancha González says the latest national figures show the virus's upwards curve appears to be flattening out.
  • Germany has so far avoided a deadly outbreak on the scale of Spain and Italy, but it did report a jump in cases on Monday of 4,751, bringing ITS total to 57,000.
  • Hungary's government has declared sweeping emergency powers and can rule by decree. Prime Minister Viktor Orban pledged to act proportionately, but opponents - including human rights campaigners outside Hungary - accuse him of eroding democracy. There is no time limit on these powers, and journalists could face jail if officials dislike their reporting on the crisis.
  • In Russia, Moscow began a lockdown of its 12 million residents as the government moves to curb an outbreak.
  • In Austria, shoppers will now be required to wear masks inside stores, authorities announced on Monday.