The number of deaths from coronavirus in Italy has risen to 1,266 – an increase of 250 in a day, officials say.
The 25% hike is the largest rise in absolute terms since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, Italy’s Civil Protection Agency has said.
The total number of cases in the country, the worst hit in Europe, has gone up by 17%, from 15,113 to 17,660.
“More cases are now being reported every day [in Europe] than were being reported by China at the height of its epidemic,” World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. He also called the reported 5,000 deaths worldwide a “tragic milestone.”
“Do not let this fire burn,” he said calling for social distancing. “Isolate the sick.”
The record number of deaths comes just days after Italy reported nearly 200 deaths in a 24-hour period.
Scientists have not yet found a vaccine for COVID-19, which WHO officially characterized as a pandemic on early Wednesday.
“In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of Covid-19 cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher,” Tedros said Wednesday.
As of Friday afternoon, 1,875 people in the U.S. had tested positive for the coronavirus. Public health officials have estimated that thousands of people likely have the virus but don’t know it, partly due to the lack of testing.