Italy's intensive care staff working to turn tide of Europe's worst coronavirus outbreak as death toll reaches 10,800

Italy reported more than 750 new coronavirus fatalities on Sunday, bringing the country’s death toll to nearly 10,800.

While the rate of new infections has shown signs of easing in the past few days, for the intensive care staff at a hospital in Monza, just north of Milan, there is no respite.

Every bed is full and every ventilator is in use.

The patients are largely sedated and only breathing thanks to artificial help.

The lungs of some of the patients are too damaged to be saved, but some did show signs of improvement.

Doctors in the intensive care unit of a hospital in Monza. Credit: ITV News

Nearly 4,000 patients across Italy are being treated in intensive care units - on top of the normal everyday demand for these beds.

For the staff on these wards, the strain has been unbearable. Tragically one nurse in the hospital in Monza that ITV News visited is thought to have taken her own life last week when she learned she tested positive for the virus.

Forty-one health workers in Italy have died from coronavirus since the outbreak began there.

The staff on the ICU do have currently proper protective equipment - and one doctor told ITV News he has less chance of catching the disease treating patients than he does off duty.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppi Conte. Credit: ITV News

"This is not the most dangerous place - the most dangerous place is outside," he said.

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppi Conte made a televised address to the nation to announce the grim news that the country's death toll has passed 10,000.

He also took the chance to warn fellow European leaders that this, more than any other, was a moment for European solidarity.

The intensive care unit in this Italian hospital is full. Credit: ITV News

"We are open to any kind of debate", he said, "but this moment is an appointment with history. The European Union has to prove it if can rise to the challenge that history is setting us".

While financial support may not yet be forthcoming, efforts are being made to co-ordinate the medical response across the continent; this week, the German airforce flew some seriously ill Covid19-positive Italians to be treated at German hospitals.

Coffins lining the streets in Italy. Credit: ITV News

But in a small town in the northern Province of Piedmont, the consequences of a death toll running at close to a thousand a day are only too visible as coffins that they can not cremate or bury are stacked onto refrigerated lorries.

Scenes like this are being repeated in Spain, and before much longer there may be similar ones in other countries across Europe and the world.

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