The death toll in Italy from the coronavirus overtook China’s on Thursday, and infections in the United States climbed past 10,000, in a stark illustration of how the crisis has pivoted toward the West.
Italy, with a population of 60 million, recorded at least 3,405 deaths, or roughly 150 more than in China — a country with a population over 20 times larger.
Italy reached the bleak milestone the same day that Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus first emerged three months ago, recorded no new infections, a sign that the communist country’s draconian lockdowns were effective in containing the scourge.
On Thursday, a visiting Chinese Red Cross team criticized Italians’ failure to properly quarantine themselves and take the national lockdown seriously.
At the U.N. in New York, meanwhile, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the world “is at war with a virus” and warned that “a global recession — perhaps of record dimensions — is a near certainty.”
“If we let the virus spread like wildfire — especially in the most vulnerable
regions of the world — it would kill millions of people,” he said.
The virus appeared to be opening an alarming new front in Africa and also reached at least one European head of state: 62-year-old Prince Albert II of the tiny principality of Monaco. The palace announced that he tested positive but was continuing to work from his office and was being treated by doctors from Princess Grace Hospital, named after his American actress mother.
Worldwide the death toll crept toward 10,000 as the total number of infections topped 220,000, including nearly 85,000 people who have recovered.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe pleaded with people to keep their distance from one another to avoid spreading the virus, even as the crisis pushed them to seek comfort.
“When you love someone, you should avoid taking them in your arms,” he said in Parliament. “It’s counterintuitive, and it’s painful. The psychological consequences, the way we are living, are very disturbing — but it’s what we must do.”
Health authorities have cited a variety of reasons for Italy’s high toll, key among them its large population of elderly people, who are particularly susceptible to serious complications from the virus, though severe cases have also been seen in younger patients. Italy has the world’s second-oldest population, and the vast majority of its dead — 87% — were over 70.