Italy reported a high one-day death toll on Sunday and leaders warned of a bed and artificial respirator shortage in the European epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic.
Official figures showed the number of deaths shot up by 368 to 1,809— more than half of all cases outside of China.
The Vatican took the dire step of canceling Easter week celebrations which were scheduled to begin on April 5 as the 60 million-strong nation prepared for an extended crisis.
Only occasional joggers and a couple of locals with grocery bags could be seen under successful lockdown on the streets of Rome on a sunny afternoon of Italy’s first weekend.
“I am not really interested in what people tell us about religion,” pensioner Roman said after the Vatican announced that its Easter observances “will take place without the physical presence of the faithful”.
“I’m interested in what people tell us about our health.”
Milan’s Lombardy region governor Attilio Fontana said the situation in areas surrounding Italy’s financial hub was “getting worse.”
“We are close to the point where we will no longer be able to resuscitate people because we will be out of intensive care unit beds,” Fontana told Italy’s Sky TG24 channel.
“We need those machines (doctors) use to ventilate lungs, artificial respirators that unfortunately we cannot find,” Fontana said.
“As soon as those respirators arrive from abroad, we will be ready to go on the attack.”
The Lombardy region has reported 1,218 deaths officially linked to COVID-19 over the span of three weeks, making it more than the rest of Europe.
The region of 10 million also has 13,272 reported infections and 767 people in intensive care.