Italy sees 168 coronavirus deaths, toll outside China over 1,000
An armed Italian Carabinieri police officer, wearing a respiratory mask as part of precautionary measures against the spread of the new COVID-19 coronavirus, performs driving permission controls in Milan. AFP
Italy recorded 168 deaths Tuesday from the novel coronavirus, its highest single-day toll to date, pushing the number of fatalities outside China to more than 1,000.
Overall in Italy, 631 people have died from the COVID-19 disease caused by the virus and 10,149 have been infected in just over two weeks. Tuesday's toll raised the total number of deaths outside China to 1,115, according an AFP tally.
The rapid spread of the new illness forced the Italian government Tuesday to impose a nationwide ban on public gathering and travel restrictions until April 3. It also puts Italy's health system under severe strain.
Health officials warned over the weekend that hospitals in the Lombardy region around Milan where three-fourths of the deaths have occurred were running out of beds. The number of intensive care patients rose by 144 to 877 nationwide.
The overwhelming majority of the fatalities and infections were still being recorded in the north, with poorer southerns regions largely spared. Top government ministers have been warning for days that Italy might not be able to cope if the disease began to rapidly spread through the south.