Coronavirus: Italy surpasses UK to record worst COVID-19 death toll in Europe

A nurse tends to a patient inside a COVID-19 intensive care unit of the Tor Vergata Polyclinic Hospital in Rome, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020.
A nurse tends to a patient inside a COVID-19 intensive care unit of the Tor Vergata Polyclinic Hospital in Rome, Sunday, Dec. 13, 2020. Copyright Alessandra Tarantino/Associated Press
By Euronews, AP and AFP
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While the way coronavirus deaths are recorded in both countries differs, Italy has now overtaken the UK as the worst hit country in Europe, according to the latest figures released on Sunday.


Italy eclipsed Britain on Sunday to become the nation with the worst official coronavirus death toll in Europe.

The country, where the continent's pandemic began, registered 484 COVID-19 deaths in one day, one of its lowest one-day death counts in about a month.

Still, those latest deaths pushed Italy's official toll up to 64,520, while Britain's stood at 64,267, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

Both numbers understate the true toll of the pandemic. Counting criteria differ in the two countries, and many coronavirus deaths, especially early in the pandemic, are believed to have gone undetected, including those of elderly people in nursing homes who were not tested for COVID-19.

Among the reasons cited for Italy's high death toll was that it was the first country in Europe to be hit by the pandemic, leaving health workers to grapple with a largely unknown virus. Italy also has a lower ratio of medical staff to patients compared to other European nations.

Germany, a nation much bigger than Italy, has a death toll one-third of Italy's or Britain's.

A little more than half of Italy's known COVID-19 deaths were registered in the first surge.

On Sunday, Italy reported another 17,938 coronavirus infections to raise its official tally to 1.84 million.

By far, the region registering the highest number of new infections was the northern region of Veneto. Italy's Lombardy region has the highest number of cases and deaths overall.

Largely heeding the advice of medical experts, Italian premier Giuseppe Conte has tightened travel rules for the period straddling Christmas, New Year's, and Epiphany Day holidays. Starting on December 21 and running through January 6, people in Italy won't be able to travel between regions except for work or urgent reasons such as health problems.

On the holidays themselves, under the nationwide restrictions, Italians can't leave their towns, as the government seeks to discourage families and friends from gathering in large numbers indoors.

In France, 11,533 cases of COVID-19 were recorded in the last 24 hours, well above the government's target of 5,000 cases a day, according to figures released on Sunday evening by health agency Santé Publique France.

The country currently has 25,239 patients hospitalised due to COVID-19, a figure that is slightly elevated. On Friday and Saturday, the figure had fallen below 25,000 for the first time since November 1.

Official mortality statistics show there were 150 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing the death toll in France since the beginning of the epidemic to 57,911.

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