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753 new deaths in France, 525 in Italy as Europe struggles to curb numbers

Much of Europe continued to suffer under the coronavirus pandemic Thursday, with hundreds of new deaths reported in France, Italy, Spain, and record numbers in Turkey and Bulgaria.

The outbreak claimed another 753 lives since Wednesday in France, bringing the country’s toll to 17,920, top French health official Jerome Salomon said.

But the number of virus patients hospitalized dropped by 474 and the number in critical care fell by 209, the health ministry’s number two official said.

“The spread of the virus is stabilizing at a high level,” he added.

Among the dead were 11,060 who died in hospitals and 6,860 in care homes or other establishments, he said.

The number of people remaining in critical care was 6,248, which, though down slightly, outstrips the 5,000 specialist reanimation beds in French hospitals, meaning there are “still tensions” on hospital services, said Salomon.

The current situation corresponds with a “plateau” in the number of cases, he said, while stressing that people need to continue to respect the lockdown rules.

On Monday France extended its nationwide lockdown until May 11.

Deaths and new infections in Italy continued to plateau Thursday, showing no significant easing nearly a month after a peak.

The number of deaths of people infected with the coronavirus in Italy grew by 525 in 24 hours to 22,170, the smallest increase in four days. At the same time, new cases grew by 3,786 cases to 168,941, the largest jump in four days.

Pressure on hospitals eased, with 750 fewer beds occupied, including 143 fewer in intensive care units — with ICU beds dropping below 3,000 for the first time since March 21.

Virologist Andrea Crisanti, who is leading the Veneto region’s efforts to contain the virus, said that it will be another couple of weeks of strict measures before deaths and infections are expected to drop off significantly.

“We are still seeing the results of what happened four or five weeks ago” in terms of virus circulation, he told foreign journalists.

Meanwhile, in Spain, after nearly five weeks of confinement, the rise in deaths and infections has slowed over the past fortnight, with the overnight fatalities taking the toll to 19,130 with another 551 deaths.

But regional authorities in Madrid and Catalonia said they each had thousands more victims than the official count.

“The real number of deaths is difficult to know,” said Fernando Simon, the health ministry’s emergencies coordinator.

The daily figure was compiled from information provided by regional authorities concerning deaths among patients who “had tested positive for coronavirus”, he said.

In Turkey, the health minister reported 125 new COVID-19 fatalities in 24 hours, the highest number of daily deaths in the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, bringing the total death toll to 1,643.

The health minister, Fahrettin Koca, tweeted Thursday that the number of infections in the country had increased by 4,801 and the total number of confirmed cases was 74,193.

Bulgaria registered a record increase of confirmed cases as health officials said the number climbed by 65 to 800.

The Balkan country of 7 million has imposed strict social distancing measures that have worked well but so far it has tested only a limited number of people who are suspected to be infected.

It is probably one of the reasons why Bulgaria has the lowest number of confirmed cases and the third-lowest number of fatalities from the coronavirus per 100,000 inhabitants in the European Union, according to latest data by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control.

The government started on Thursday massive testing, hoping that it will provide a better picture of the virus’s spread that could help to shape future steps to revive the economy. Thirty-eight people have died from COVID-19 in Bulgaria.