Coronavirus Death Toll: Italy’s Is Now Higher Than China’s

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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Italy now has the highest death rate from coronavirus –higher than China’s, where the virus first started. A food delivery rider pedals in deserted Piazza Castello, in Turin, Italy, March 19, 2020. For most people, the coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause more severe illness. (Marco Alpozzi/LaPresse via AP)

Italy now has the highest death rate from coronavirus, announcing that deaths have reached 3,405 — more than has been reported in China, where the virus first started in December.

Funeral services have been banned in Italy as part of the country’s lockdown and its restrictions against gatherings, New York Times reported. More than 41,035 cases have been reported and Italy had 902 deaths in the last two days alone — mostly of people who had serious pre-existing conditions, officials said.

China said on Thursday that there were no new domestic transmissions of the coronavirus in the country for the first time since its outbreak, CNBC reported. However, 21 “imported” infections were confirmed in Beijing as people returned from trips abroad.

Italy’s grim new milestone raises questions about the reliability of China’s coronavirus reporting. Many people are suspicious of China’s numbers and skeptical of its “no new domestic transmissions” report.

That’s partly because, on March 18, the Chinese government prohibited U.S. journalists from the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post from working in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Macau.

“(Chinese) authorities already exercise near-total control over the domestic media, such that the foreign press has been vital in enhancing the world’s understanding of China,” said Yaqiu Wang, China researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Conditions for foreign journalists in China have deteriorated in recent years, Human Rights Watch said. Authorities routinely obstruct, detain, and spy on international journalists. It’s worse for Chinese journalists. They’re threatened with job loss, police harassment, detention, and imprisonment if their reporting irritates authorities. Few, if any, Chinese media outlets can publish freely.

“In the midst of a global health crisis – when accurate and timely information is needed more than ever – Beijing’s decision only seals its image as an enemy of a free press,” Wang said.

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However, a Feb. 28 report released from a mission organized by the World Health Organization said that China’s declining coronavirus cases are real.

The number of new cases reported each day in China has plummeted the past few weeks. Chinese hospitals overflowing with COVID-19 patients a few weeks ago now have empty beds and trials of experimental drugs are having difficulty finding enough eligible patients.

“China’s bold approach to contain the rapid spread of this new respiratory pathogen has changed the course of a rapidly escalating and deadly epidemic,” the report said, according to Science Magazine. “This decline in COVID-19 cases across China is real.”