Italy passed a grim milestone on Thursday: Deaths linked to the virus there had soared to 3,405, exceeding the toll in China, where the virus first broke out.
With the crisis mounting, Italy is increasingly turning to its military for help.
Cemeteries in the northern city of Bergamo are so overwhelmed that troops were called in to transport bodies elsewhere to be cremated. The army sent 120 doctors and health professionals to help in Bergamo and nearby Lodi, while field hospitals and emergency respiratory units are being set up elsewhere in the north.
The spread of the virus in Italy has been swift and terrifying, even after the country imposed strict limits on people’s movements. As the death toll rose, traditional funeral services were outlawed as part of the national restrictions against gatherings.
The country tallied 902 deaths in the last two days alone: 475 Wednesday and 427 on Thursday. Most who died had serious pre-existing conditions, officials said. Italy now has 41,035 coronavirus cases.
Italians have risen to meet the relentless bad news with fortitude and with creative attempts to keep their spirits up. Some housebound Italians, trying to follow social distancing rules in a famously social country, began serenading one another from their balconies in the evenings, and many took to applauding the doctors and medical workers risking their own lives on the front lines, a show of communal gratitude later emulated by Spain and other countries.
Other countries in Europe also reported upticks. France crossed the threshold of 10,000 coronavirus cases on Thursday. The French government came under intense pressure from doctors, police and the public over a shortage of face masks and gloves. And after groups of people were seen strolling in the parks of Paris and along France’s coastlines on Wednesday in defiance of the rules, the police moved to close riverside walkways and block beach access in most places.
“There are people who think they are modern-day heroes by breaking the rules, while they are in fact idiots,” the country’s interior Minister, Christophe Castaner, told a French radio station.
Germany’s official count of coronavirus infections jumped 34 percent from Wednesday to Thursday, reaching 10,999 Germany’s fatality rate remains strikingly low, with 20 dead to date.
Spain has reported more than 17,000 cases and 800 deaths. Most of the deaths were in Madrid, where a hotel has been converted into the country’s first makeshift coronavirus hospital. The country is scrambling to bolster its public health system amid reports of shortfalls, with some doctors and nurses forced to work without face masks and other basic equipment. The government launched an emergency recruitment plan on Thursday to add tens of thousands of workers to the health sector, ranging from medical students to retired doctors.
And in perhaps the most high-profile cultural event to be affected, the Cannes Film Festival has been postponed. It was meant to run from May 12 to May 23 on the French Riviera, but organizers said in a statement on Thursday that could not happen.
European leaders in the Group of Seven won’t be traveling to the U.S. in June for their annual summit. The White House has canceled this year’s in-person meeting, which President Trump had been scheduled to host at Camp David, a White House spokesman said on Thursday. The meeting will be held by teleconference instead.
“The White House also informed the other G7 members that in order to continue close coordination, the president will convene the leaders via video teleconference in April and May, just as he did this week,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said in a statement.