Europe’s coronavirus numbers offer hope as US enters ‘peak of terrible pandemic’

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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.

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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.

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“We project that roughly 56 percent of our population – 25.5 million people – will be infected with the virus over an eight week period,” Governor Newsom of California wrote on 3/19/2020.

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