Disappointment as evidence coronavirus lockdown is working in Europe remains frustratingly elusive

Disappointment is everywhere as the evidence that the Europe-wide lockdown may be defeating the coronavirus remains frustratingly elusive.

Nowhere will they be more disappointed than Italy, where an improving ‘trend’ has been reversed.

Deaths and infections are up again, but it’s even worse in Spain, and France has seen - in percentage terms - perhaps the biggest rise in deaths relating to the virus anywhere on the continent.

It’s important not to read too much into any particular day’s figures, but people have been looking for the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s still not clear there is any.

  • 'Nothing cheerful to report, really no sign of light at the end of the tunnel': Europe Editor James Mates discusses how coronavirus cases and deaths in Italy are back up as Spain turns its ice rink into a morgue

Possibly for the first time in this crisis, the worst news of the day is coming out of Spain. There are 514 more dead in the last 24 hours. 6,584 more people have contracted the virus, for the first time higher than Italy’s infection rate.

Of almost 40,000 confirmed cases, 5,400 are medical workers - an astonishing 14 per cent of the total.

The main ice-rink in Madrid has been commandeered to store the bodies.

Perhaps most horrifying of all, there are reports of the army finding elderly patients dead in their beds in abandoned nursing homes. Details are few, except that prosecutors have become involved.

Ancient parts of Rome are among those deserted during the lockdown. Credit: AP

In Italy, 743 new deaths are the first rise in the daily figures since Saturday. 5,249 new infections suggest that those figures are flattening, if not yet falling.

The draft of a new Italian Government decree suggests that the current lockdown could be extended until July 31.

The civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli believes that only one in 10 cases in the country may have been detected. That would be in keeping with a mortality rate of around one per cent, similar to that in much of the rest of the world.

French medical workers help a patient amid the pandemic. Credit: AP

France has seen a big jump in deaths - 186 in a day, a rise of 28 per cent on yesterday.

Prime Minister Éduard Philippe responded with an announcement that the lockdown would be tightened, and could be extended for several more weeks.

The Agriculture Minister is appealing to French people to help on farms. With so many East European seasonal workers having returned home, anything between 50,000 and 80,000 people are going to be needed by French farmers this spring.

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