US sees new virus records as Italian regions enter lockdown

WASHINGTON: Coronavirus cases hit new records in the United States as swathes of Italy returned to lockdown on Friday with the resurgent pandemic continuing its march through Europe.
The US recorded a third day in a row with deaths above 1,000, while more than 120,000 infections were reported — smashing a daily record set the day before, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
More than 9.6 million people have been infected and 234,000 have died in the United States so far during the pandemic, by far the highest tolls globally.
The figures comes as US President Donald Trump, who survived a bout with COVID-19 in October and insists the virus will “disappear,” was fighting for his political life with vote-counting from Tuesday’s presidential election still ongoing.
In Europe, the World Health Organization’s regional director Hans Kluge said COVID-19 was surging on the continent as its 11.6 million infections put it above Latin America and the Caribbean’s 11.4 million.
“We do see an explosion… in the sense it only takes a couple of days to have over the European region an increase of one million cases,” he said.
Countries across the continent are imposing new lockdowns, with Greeks facing stay-at-home orders from Saturday.
Experts say Italy is already in the grip of a second wave, and regions are again warning that intensive care units are filling rapidly.
Another 445 new coronavirus deaths were recorded nationwide on Thursday, along with 34,505 new cases.
Five “red zones” in the north —plus Calabria in the country’s “toe” — shut non-essential businesses from midnight on Thursday, affecting 16 million people.
In the northern city of Bergamo — the epicentre of Italy’s coronavirus crisis earlier this year — several hundred people, including restaurant and shop owners as well as members of the far-right, protested the new curbs.
The protesters gathered outside the mayor’s home after a nighttime demonstration on Thursday, waving flags, shouting “Liberty,” and hurling smoke bombs.
Bergamo mayor Giorgio Gori said that compared to Italy’s more than two-month lockdown from March — when images of army trucks transporting coffins from the city’s inundated morgue went around the world — “there is more tiredness and more distrust around”.
“At a time like this, with so many people distressed about their future, throwing gasoline on the fire… is in my opinion serious and rather dangerous,” Gori wrote on Facebook.
Italy’s regions follow 56 million people in England who went into a second lockdown on Thursday.
Tourist destinations such as London’s Buckingham Palace and Trafalgar Square were deserted, and normally bustling cities including Manchester and Liverpool fell quiet.
— AFP