ROME: Italy on Saturday (Mar 21) reported 793 new coronavirus deaths, a one-day record that saw the country's toll shoot up to 4,825 - 38.3 per cent of the world's total.
The increase of 19.6 per cent is by far the largest daily rise in absolute terms since the contagion emerged a month ago.
The number of COVID-19 infections rose by 6,557 to 53,578. The total number of fatalities in the northern Lombardy regions around Milan was 3,095 deaths and 25,515 cases.
On Thursday, Italy overtook China as the country to register most deaths from the highly contagious virus.
Of those originally infected nationwide, 6,072 had fully recovered on Saturday compared to 5,129 the day before. There were 2,857 people in intensive care against a previous 2,655.
Italy has reported 1,420 deaths since Friday, a grim figure that suggests the pandemic is breaking through the government's various containment and social distancing measures.
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The Mediterranean nation of 60 million has been under an effective lockdown since Mar 12, when public gatherings were banned and most stores shuttered.
Police were out in force across the streets of Rome on Saturday, checking documents and fining those outside without a valid reason, such as buying groceries.
Joggers were asked to run around the block of their houses, parks and beaches were closed, and the government in Rome prepared to extend school and other closures into the summer months.
But the outbreak keeps gathering pace in the new global epicentre of a virus that was first reported in December in China and has since transformed the world, straining health care systems, upending lives for millions and pummelling stock markets globally.
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The figures released Saturday showed deaths still largely contained to Italy's richer north, whose world-class healthcare system is creaking but still not breaking.
But it is much better that what is available in the poorer south, whose regions have registered a few dozen deaths each - and which the government in Rome is watching closely.
The Lazio region that includes Rome has recorded a total of 50 deaths and 1,190 infections.