Italy has recorded its highest day-to-day-rise in the number of deaths of people infected with the new coronavirus.
Civil Protection Chief Angelo Borrelli said on March 20 the country recorded 627 more deaths in the 24 hours since Italy surpassed China on March 19 as the nation with the most COVID-19-related deaths. The total now stands at 4,032.
Authorities said most of the people who died had existing health problems such as heart disease and diabetes before they were infected with the virus.
Borrelli says Italy also saw a staggering increase of 5,986 cases from a day earlier, bringing the official total in Italy to 47,021.
The soaring numbers come despite a national lockdown that drastically limits when residents are allowed to leave their homes. Police have issued citations to thousands of people for being out and about without valid reasons, such as going to work or shopping for food.
Mayors and governors throughout the country have been demanding even stricter measures. Italy's national government is widely expected to respond soon.
For days now, Italian authorities have said at daily briefings that the virus outbreak that emerged in northern Italy four weeks ago could reach its peak in a matter of days and the number of new infections might start going down.
Borrelli addressed the question Friday by saying, ""We'll never know when the peaks will be" n advance. He noted that some experts have spoken of cases peaking "the next week or the week after" that.