Italy’s death toll from the coronavirus hit 3,405 on Thursday, surpassing the total number of deaths reported in the outbreak’s epicenter in China, Italian health officials said.
Italy’s Civil Protection Department said 427 additional patients died of the COVID-19 disease to put the country’s death toll ahead of China’s.
According to Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking cases worldwide, China has had 3,249 deaths as of noon Thursday. Worldwide, there have been 230,000 cases and at least 9,358 deaths.
Among the deaths in Italy are 13 doctors, two of whom came out of retirement to help out during the national emergency.
Chinese officials said Thursday no new locally transmitted cases have been reported on the mainland, for the first time since the coronavirus disease emerged in December.
Beijing’s National Health Commission announced 34 new cases, all imported from overseas. Officials cited eight new deaths, all in Hubei province where the virus first appeared three months ago. Officials said Hubei had no new cases on Wednesday.
By contrast, China was reporting thousands of new cases every day just a few weeks ago.
Elsewhere, the Bank of England cut its base rate by 15 basis points to 0.1 percent. The Monetary Policy Committee also voted to increase the bank’s holdings of government bonds and sterling non-financial investment-grade corporate bonds by $232 billion.
In a written address Thursday, Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II called for solidarity among her subjects. This week she and Prince Philip moved from her main residence at Buckingham Palace to Windsor Castle just outside London.
“We are all being advised to change our normal routines and regular patterns of life for the greater good of the communities we live in and, in particular, to protect the most vulnerable within them,” she wrote.
“At times such as these, I am reminded that our nation’s history has been forged by people and communities coming together to work as one, concentrating our combined efforts with a focus on the common goal.”
In other royal news, Prince Albert II of Monaco has tested positive for the coronavirus, a spokesperson for the leader told CNN. The representative said his health “is not worrying at all.”
Earlier, New Zealand and Australia said they will close their borders to stop the spread of the virus.
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her closure will take effect at midnight Thursday and Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said his will close at 9 p.m. Friday.
Protecting New Zealanders from the virus is the number one priority, Ardern said, adding that all New Zealand cases are imported.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Winston Peters raised the travel advisory to its highest level on Thursday, warning residents not to venture outside the nation’s borders.
Morrison said 80 percent of Australian cases have also been imported.
Australia has already seen a drop by about a third of foreigner travelers since he ordered arrivals to self-quarantine for 14 days, a policy that will still be in effect for returning Australians.
The Reserve Bank of Australia slashed interest rates to a record low 0.25 percent as a measure to guard the economy. The bank announced a target yield of about 0.25 percent on three-year Australian government bonds and will offer support to small- and medium-sized businesses.
ByDarryl Coote & Danielle Haynes