Italy, Vatican lower flags, observe silence to honour coronavirus dead

Mayor of Rome Virginia Raggi attends a ceremony to draw an Italian flag to half mast as mayors across Italy stand in silence to honour the country's dead due to coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rome, Italy, March 31, 2020. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

 Italians marked a minute of silence and flags at government buildings were lowered to half mast on Tuesday to honour the thousands of victims of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Vatican, a tiny city-state surrounded by Rome, lowered its own yellow-and-white flags. Italians on the other side of the border lowered their green, white and red national tri-colour as well as the flags of their cities and of the European Union.

The initiative was promoted by a group of mayors to show solidarity with the towns suffering the most in the north, the epicentre of the crisis.

Italy is the world’s hardest hit country in terms of deaths and accounts for more than a third of all global fatalities.

“This moment of silence of mayors, in which even the presidential palace and the Vatican participated, is an important moment for our country, showing unity from north to south,” said Antonio Decaro, mayor of the southern city of Bari, which so far has been spared the worst of the outbreak.

Mayors wearing their official tri-colour sashes and some donning surgical masks looked on sombrely as buglers played on empty streets that before the lockdown to try to contain the virus would have been packed with residents and tourists.

Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro stood by the unusually still waters of a canal, free of boat traffic because of the national lockdown.

“All the mayors have gathered together in a kind of ideal embrace, most importantly to be close to the places that are suffering the most, where the virus has been the most ferocious, to be close to the mourning for those who have died,” Decaro said.

The lockdown was due to end on Friday, but has been extended until sometime after Easter, which falls on April 12 this year.

As the total number of dead on Tuesday rose by another 837 to well over 12,000, Decaro said the mayors’ initiative was a sign of respect for all suffering families.

“We are trying to send a message of hope,” he said.

No let-up in coronavirus deaths in Italy, new cases steady

The death toll from an outbreak of coronavirus in Italy has climbed by 837 to 12,428, the Civil Protection Agency said on Tuesday, with the daily tally rising, albeit slightly, for a second day running.

The number of new cases was broadly steady, growing by 4,053 against 4,050 on Monday, and bringing total infections since the outbreak came to light on Feb. 21 to 105,792.

Some 5,217 new cases were registered on Sunday and 5,974 on Saturday, suggesting the growth curve of new infections is flattening.

The daily tally of deaths in Lombardy, the worst-affected region, declined sharply, and new infections were also down for at least the third day running, suggesting the situation is improving there faster than elsewhere in the country.

In neighbouring Piedmont, on the other hand, the daily death toll of 105 was up sharply from the day before.

Of those originally infected nationwide, 15,729 had fully recovered on Tuesday, compared to 14,620 the day before. There were 4,023 people in intensive care, up from a previous 3,981.

Italy has registered more deaths than anywhere else in the world and accounts for around 30% of all global fatalities from the virus.

Italy’s largest daily toll from the five-week-old epidemic was registered on Friday, when 919 people died. There were 889 deaths on Saturday, 756 on Sunday and 812 on Monday.

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