Italy recorded its most deaths from the coronavirus in a single day, more evidence it’s now the hardest-hit place on Earth

Medical personnel at a hospital in Brescia, in northern Italy, on Tuesday. Claudio Furlan/LaPresse via AP

Italy recorded 168 new deaths from the coronavirus on Tuesday – its highest death toll in a single day – in further evidence that it is now the hardest-hit country dealing with the outbreak.

As of Wednesday morning, 631 people had died from the coronavirus in Italy and 10,149 people were infected. The leap in numbers means Italy represents about 15% of the global death toll of 4,200 people.

Its death toll and total cases are second only to mainland China, where the coronavirus outbreak started last December. China, however, appears to be turning a corner, recording fewer and fewer new cases every day.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte put the entire country on lockdown on Tuesday, mandating a “stay at home” policy, closing large gathering places and cultural centres, banning nonessential travel, and limiting the opening hours of many shops and restaurants.

Italy coronavirus
Rome’s Colosseum, which will be closed under the government’s new ban on public gatherings, is reflected in a puddle where a face mask was left. Experts say masks do not necessarily curtail the spread of the virus. Alfredo Falcone/LaPresse via AP

Despite these measures, Italy’s medical system is under enormous pressure to handle the cases. Doctors have been working back-to-back shifts and are making agonizing decisions about who to prioritise for treatment – and are reportedly opting to favour young and healthy people over older patients.

Italy detected its first three coronavirus cases in late January.