Italy coronavirus death toll surges past 10,000; lockdown extension likely

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy barrelled past 10,000 on Saturday, a figure that made an extension of a national lockdown almost certain.

Officials said 889 more people died in the previous 24 hours, the second highest daily tally since the epidemic emerged on Feb. 21, and that total fatalities reached 10,023.

Confirmed cases rose by about 6,000 to 92,472, the second-highest number of cases in the world behind the United States.

Officials said the numbers would have been worse without a national lockdown.

“Without these measures, we would be seeing far worse numbers and our health service would be in a far more dramatic state. We would have been in an unsustainable situation,” said Angelo Borelli, the Civil Protection head who reads out the numbers daily to the media and an anxious Italy.

Italy, the first Western country to introduce severe restrictions on movement after uncovering the outbreak five weeks ago, has since increasingly tightened them, and hopes that they would be eased from next Friday were fading fast.

“There are elements that make us believe that all of the April 3 expirations of provision will have to be postponed,” Economy Minister Stefano Patuanelli told Italian broadcaster Rai.

The Lombardy region, which has borne the worst of the contagion, recorded 542 new deaths, bringing the total there to 5,944.