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Italy mourns its virus dead at end of fateful month

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The Italian flag flies at half-mast on the city hall of Milan at noon on March 31, 2020 as flags are being flown at half-mast in cities across Italy to commemorate the victims of the virus, during the country’s lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection, caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP)

Italy marked a minute of silence and flew flags at half-mast Tuesday to mourn the 11,591 people who have died from the coronavirus pandemic that has drastically altered life in the Mediterranean country.

The nation of 60 million people has recorded nearly a third of all fatalities caused by the disease around the world.

The day of mourning marks a month in which Italy saw more deaths from a single disaster than at any time since World War II.

It was first detected in Italy near the northern city of Milan in late February.

The virus “is an injury that hurt the whole country,” Rome mayor Virginia Raggi said after observing a minute’s silence at noon.

“Together, we will get through this,” she said at a ceremony held outside Rome’s city hall.

Vatican City also flew its yellow-and-white flags at half-mast in solidarity with the rest of Italy.

The Italian government imposed an unprecedented lockdown three weeks ago to help stem the spread of a virus that has now officially infected more than 100,000 people in the country.

The financial cost of the forced shutdown of almost all businesses threatens to send Italy’s economy — the European Union’s third-largest last year — into its deepest recession in decades.

The government decided to extend the shutdown Monday until at least mid-April.

Stores and restaurants are not expected to start opening until at least May and no official is willing to predict when life might return to the way it was just a month ago.

“The sacrifice we make when we are asked to stay at home is necessary to save all of us,” the Rome mayor said.

“We must do it for all those who lost their lives and all those who put their lives at risk by working for us all — the doctors the nurses, the people who work in supermarkets.”

But the head of the infectious diseases department at Milan’s Luigi Sacco Hospital that managed to isolate the Italian strain said he was looking at the future with some hope.

“We have the impression that (the pandemic) is weakening,” Massimo Galli told Italian radio.

Italy reported 812 deaths on Monday. Its single-day record was 969 on Friday — the highest daily toll recorded anywhere in the world.


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