(NEW YORK) — The coronavirus death toll in Italy surpassed China’s for the first time, becoming the first country to do so, as the prime minister announced that a task force of 300 volunteer doctors will be despatched to the worst affected areas of the country.
As of Thursday, the total number of dead in Italy had risen to 3,405, out of a total of 41,035 confirmed cases of coronavirus nationwide, surpassing China’s death toll of 3,249. The news that Italy has become the worst hit country came as the authorities in China reported no new domestic cases, three new deaths and a total of 228 imported cases Friday, a major milestone in the country’s fight against the pandemic.
“Up to 300 doctors will come from all over Italy to support the areas most affected by the Coronavirus. We are standing beside the communities that are on the front line in facing this emergency, we continue to fight this battle together with them,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte declared in a statement.
The volunteer task force will be made up of doctors from all parts of Italy.
The number of doctors in Italy who have lost their lives due to the coronavirus rose to 14 overnight, according to the National Federation of Medical Officers. So far at least 3,559 health workers have been infected with the virus, which accounts for roughly 8.3% of the total positive infections in the country.
Italian medical workers, particularly in the worst-hit northern regions, have repeatedly stressed that they are overworked and under-resourced, especially now that such a large number are testing positive themselves.
Stefano Fagiuoli, the chair of the Department of Medicine at the Papa Giovanni XXIII hospital in Bergamo, Lombardy, launched an urgent public appeal for funds and volunteer doctors in a video circulated to foreign media.
“We are in full emergency with this coronavirus pandem[ic],” he said. “Our health personnel, nurses and physicians are working round the clock, countless hours to fight this incredible situation.”
In the video, he urgently called on Italy’s population to “please stay at home.”
“The second message is for whoever wants to help us. We are in desperate need of both nurses and physicians, together with ventilators,” he said, in his call to solicit donations to a specially set up a GoFundMe page, which has so far raised $900,000.
A Chinese medical team of 12 doctors, nurses and experts flew into Lombardy to provide assistance to the Italian authorities earlier this week.
As well as the team of 300 volunteer doctors to be sent to the worst hit areas, Italy will be receiving more international aid in the coming days.
A team of 50 medics from Cuba is arriving over the weekend to help, while an American field hospital is expected to begin operating Friday in Cremona, a city in the province of virus-stricken Lombardy.
NGO Samaritan’s Purse airlifted a 68-bed Emergency Field Hospital to Milan Friday, with a DC-8 aircraft carrying around 20 tons of equipment, a specially developed respiratory care unit and 32 disaster relief medical personnel, who will be staying in the country for at least a month.
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