Europe’s coronavirus numbers offer hope as US braces for its “hardest” week

Europe’s coronavirus numbers offer hope as US braces for its “hardest” week

European nations most ravaged by the new coronavirus have reported encouraging signs in their fight against the deadly pandemic, as the U.S. death toll approaches 10,000

European nations most ravaged by the new coronavirus have reported encouraging signs in their fight against the deadly pandemic, as the United States braced for what may be its “hardest” week.

Italy reported 525 cases in one day – its lowest daily toll in two weeks and a possible indication the tide may be turning in the deadliest disaster the country has faced since the second World War.

This is good news but we should not let our guard down, civil protection service chief Angelo Borrelli told reporters.

The country has recorded the highest death toll globally, with 15,887 fatalities and just under 129,000 cases of Covid-19.

France reported its lowest daily toll in a week and in Spain officials said fatality numbers had fallen for the third straight day, with 674 deaths.

The positive news came as the Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez, said Europe needed a common “Marshall Plan” to recover from the pandemic. The Marshall Plan was an aid programme initiated by the United States in 1948 to help countries in western Europe recover after the second World War, which pumped $15bn into efforts to rebuild.

In Italy, Pope Francis, head of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, appealed for people to show courage in the face of the pandemic.

The elderly pontiff, who himself has been tested twice for the virus, celebrated his Palm Sunday mass by livestream. But St Peter’s Square was deserted of the usual crowds and the basilica was almost empty.

And as Christians prepare for Easter this weekend, the holiest event on their religious calendar, many churches around the world are closed and masses are being transmitted on television and on social networks.

Across the Atlantic, US president Donald Trump pointed to Europe’s positive signs of change as a beacon of hope: “We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” he said, after minutes earlier striking a somber note, with: “In the days ahead America will endure the peak of this terrible pandemic.”

The US Surgeon General, Jerome Adams, warned that this was going to be “the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives”. He added: This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment.

Total US deaths were approaching 10,000 – more than three times the number killed in the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Centre in New York. There were 337,000 infections across the country by Sunday night. Exactly one month ago the country had confirmed just 214 cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, also said that Italy and Spain promising numbers were “giving us hope for what our future could be”.

Birx also announced some stark testing results, including that in the state of New Jersey, 42% of tests for Covid-19 had come back positive. In Connecticut and Michigan it was 20%.

In a bad-tempered exchange during the briefing Trump branded a reporter “fake news” for questioning why the president continued to say he was “not a doctor”, but at the same time was strongly pushing for the use of the anti-malarial drug, hydroxychorloquine. Trump spent much of the briefing saying there was nothing to lose by trying the medication and boasted that the administration had stockpiled 29m tablets.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the country’s top doctor on infectious diseases, has warned there is no evidence to support the drug’s use for Covid-19, but Trump refused to let him answer a question about it at the briefing.

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