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Church News

Virus marches on in Italy and Iran as pope calls for prayer

by Press Association

During his weekly Sunday blessing, Pope Francis urged all Christians to join in reciting the Our Father prayer next Wednesday at noon.

“To the virus pandemic, we want to respond with the universality of prayer, of compassion, of tenderness,” the pope said.

Francis, who began streaming his audiences earlier this month due to virus concerns, said he would also lead a global blessing to an empty St Peter’s Square on Friday.

The Urbi et Orbi, blessing, normally reserved for Christmas Day and Easter, will be broadcast to the faithful.

Italy, Iran and the US have reported soaring new death tolls as the coronavirus pandemic marches relentlessly across the globe.

It has prompted a scramble in hard-hit regions to set up more hospital beds and replenish the dwindling medical supplies needed to keep health workers safe.

The Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte went on live TV to announce he was tightening the country’s lockdown and shutting down all production facilities except those providing essential goods and services.

“We are facing the most serious crisis that the country has experienced since the Second World War,” Mr Conte said during a broadcast at midnight.

He cautioned citizens to be calm and patient, insisting there was “no alternative” than to impose further restrictions.

Scientists have argued avoiding even one infection means scores more are prevented down the line.

Italy announced its biggest day-to-day increase of infections, which rose to 53,000 people, with nearly 800 new deaths. As bodies piled up in Italian hospitals, morgues and churches, and as medical workers pleaded for more help, there was no sign that Italy was yet taming its arc of contagion.

Italy now has 4,825 deaths, more than all of China, where the virus first emerged late last year.

In Spain, Europe’s hardest-hit country after Italy, intensive care units in some areas were close to their limits even before Sunday’s new tally of 28,572 infections and 1,720 deaths.

The army is building a field hospital with 5,500 beds in a convention centre in Madrid, where hotels are also being turned into wards for virus patients without serious breathing problems.

In the US, where several states have ordered residents to stay indoors, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said the Government was “literally scouring the globe looking for medical supplies”.

Negotiators from Congress and the White House resumed top-level talks on a ballooning one trillion dollars-plus economic rescue package, urged by President Donald Trump to strike a deal to steady a nation upended by the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Trump appeared confident about the nation’s ability to defeat the pandemic soon even as health leaders acknowledged the US is nowhere near the peak of the outbreak.

Nationwide, there were 26,747 cases and 374 deaths as the US overlook Germany as the country with the fourth-highest number of cases, according to Johns Hopkins University.

New Jersey and St Louis were added to a growing list of areas where residents were ordered to stay home.

Hawaii’s governor instituted a mandatory 14-day self-quarantine starting on Thursday for both returning residents and visitors and urged people to delay planned vacations to the Pacific archipelago.

Worldwide, nearly 316,000 people have been infected and more than 13,600 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University.

About 150 countries now have confirmed cases and deaths have been reported in more than 30 American states.

Some 93,800 people have recovered, mostly in China.

The Chinese city of Wuhan – where the global pandemic was first detected and the first city to be locked down – went a fourth consecutive day on Sunday without reporting any new or suspected cases.

Wuhan must go 14 straight days without a new case in order for draconian travel restrictions to be lifted but a special train brought in more than 1,000 car factory employees for the first time since the outbreak.

Parks and other public gathering places are reopening in China as people return to work and businesses resume but the country has placed increasing restrictions on those coming from overseas.

All arrivals to Beijing from abroad must quarantine themselves for two weeks in a hotel at their own expense.

Beginning on Monday, flights into the capital will be diverted to airports in other cities, where passengers will have to pass a health inspection.

The long-haul airline Emirates said it will suspend all passenger flights from Wednesday over the outbreak.

Sri Lanka has blocked any passenger flights and ships from entering the Indian Ocean island.

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