The death toll from the Covid-19 (coronavirus) in Italy has risen to 197, the country’s health officials have disclosed.
Case fatality in Italy has remained on a constant high since the outbreak began.
Italy’s national health institute said 49 people died in 24 hours, while more than 4,600 cases have been reported in total.
Italy has now reported the most deaths outside of China, where the virus emerged in December.
The outbreak in Italy became a ‘world-concern’ as cases have been exported from the European country to over 11 other countries, including Nigeria.
The country has also been identified as one of the three hot-spots after Iran and South Korea.
The national health institute said the average age of those who have died was 81, with the majority suffering from underlying health problems. An estimated 72 per cent of all those who have died were men.
According to government data, 4.25 per cent of individuals confirmed to have the coronavirus have died, the highest rate in the world.
Italy has one of the world’s oldest populations.
The government, this week, ordered the closure of all schools for 10 days as it battles to contain the outbreak.
Also, all professional sports, including Serie A football matches, will also be played behind closed doors for a month.
BBC’s Rome correspondent, Mark Lowen, tweeted that a resident in the quarantined Italian town of Codogno told him the most upsetting thing for many people there is that funerals are not being permitted for coronavirus victims because of the need to limit gatherings.
“Priests are saying a couple of prayers – and that’s it,” he wrote.
Meanwhile, only three countries, China, South Korea and Iran have reported more coronavirus cases than Italy.
As of Saturday, South Korea had reported 7,041 cases and 46 deaths. Iran about 3,500 cases and 124 deaths.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation, in its daily situation report of the disease, said there is now a total of 98,023 reported cases of COVID-19 globally, and 3380 deaths.
WHO said nearly 100,000 people worldwide have contracted the coronavirus.
WHO Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, said as “cases increase, we are continuing to recommend that all countries make containment their highest priority”.
He said in the past 24 hours, 2736 cases of COVID-19 were reported from 47 countries and territories.
Although cases are spiking across the world, the majority of reported cases are still in China.
Mr Ghebreyesus called on countries to find, test, isolate and care for every case, and to trace every contact.
“Slowing down the epidemic saves lives, and it buys time for preparedness and for research and development.
“Every day we slow down the epidemic is another day closer to having vaccines and therapeutics, which can, in turn, prevent infections and save lives,” he said.
WHO said there are many ongoing researches into the diseases.
“We’re very encouraged by the level of interest around the world in accelerating research as part of the response.
“So far, WHO has received applications for review and approval of 40 diagnostic tests, 20 vaccines are in development and many clinical trials of therapeutics are underway.”
“Even as we test therapeutics, we need to ensure that supplies of those medicines are available, should they prove effective,” said Mr Ghebreyesus.