By VOA News
Italy, the European country hardest hit by the coronavirus, confirmed 10,023 people dead and 92,472 infected as of Saturday.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte made the announcement Saturday evening in a joint appearance with Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri.
On a somewhat positive note, Conte said that on Saturday Italy also had more than 1,400 people who recovered, the highest number to date.
Conte said that under the solidarity fund for the municipalities program, which has an advance payment of $4.8 billion, mayors will soon be issuing food vouchers for low-income and poor people facing challenges due to the lockdown of the country and the shutdown of nonessential factories and businesses. Many Italians have seen a drastic decrease of income.
«With a Civil Protection order we will add to this fund (the solidarity fund for the municipalities) 400 million euros. We are distributing this fund to the municipalities, but they must use it to support poor people who cannot afford food shopping. With these 400 million that will be distributed to the 8,000 municipalities of our territory it will be possible to issue vouchers and to give food,» Conte said.
Local municipalities are obliged to use the fund for food, medicines and other essential goods for citizens of the poorest segments of Italian society.
Conte also said that if data collected show a decrease in the intensity of the coronavirus and if it is feasible, schools may open Friday.
In Spain, the health ministry confirmed 832 deaths Saturday, bringing the total number of victims to 5,690. The country has the highest death toll in Europe after Italy.
Health authorities said Friday the country was getting closer to the peak of the virus outbreak. In the meantime, hospitals have surpassed their capacities and patients infected with coronavirus continue to arrive, which has forced medical personnel to accommodate them elsewhere.
As of Saturday, France had 37,575 confirmed cases of infection and 2,314 deaths, with 319 new deaths in the last 24 hours, health authorities said.
French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the country has not seen the worst yet, warning that the first 15 days of April will be crucial.
«We must all together face a considerable challenge and make an intense effort. An effort that will endure because I want to tell you things with clarity, the fight has just begun. The first 15 days of April will be difficult, even more difficult than the 15 days that have just passed,» Philippe said.
Meanwhile, Health Minister Olivier Veran said France had ordered more than a billion protective masks, mostly from China, as the country was running short of the much-needed item to fight the spread of COVID-19.
In Germany the number of deaths has been relatively low, compared to other European countries. According to Die Zeit newspaper, Germany had 397 victims – a death rate below 1 percent — as of Saturday, and 53,340 people tested positive for the coronavirus.
Experts believe that strict measures, extensive testing and a strong health care system have helped the country to deal more effectively to keep the death toll lower, while the number of infections is high.
Germany has closed nonessential services and has banned public gatherings of more than two people until April 20.