President Donald Trump has warned "there will be a lot of death" as the U.S. faces its "toughest week" yet in its fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking at at his daily White House coronavirus press briefing on Saturday, Trump said: “This will be probably the toughest week, between this week and the next week. And there will be a lot of death, unfortunately.”
After a record 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment benefits last week, Trump emphasized the need for the U.S. economy to reopen.
"We cannot let this continue,” he said. “So at a certain point, some hard decisions are going to have to be made."
His comments came as the total number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. rose to over 300,000, with more than 8,000 deaths, according to NBC News' tally.
Globally, near 66,000 have died, with more than 1.2 million confirmed cases worldwide, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Italy, the European epicenter of the outbreak, recorded 4,805 new cases on Saturday, bringing the total to 124,632. More than 15,000 people have now died in the country - more than anywhere else in the world.
In a glimmer of hope, the number of patients in badly stretched intensive care units fell for the first time on Saturday, with 3,994 patients being treated, down 74 from 4,068 on Friday, Reuters reported.
“This is an important piece of news because it allows our hospitals to breathe,” Civil Protection head Angelo Borelli said in a daily briefing.
But officials have urged Italians to continue rigorously observing lockdown measures in place since early last month after some Italians were seen out walking and shopping in great numbers in various cities. Officials said they were still in a state of emergency and the infection curve, while remaining at a plateau, had yet to taper off.
In the country’s hardest-hit Lombardy region, people are now required to wear a protective mask or scarf covering their mouth and nose to go outside.
In Spain, 674 new deaths were reported Saturday, a considerable drop from 950 reported on Wednesday. The country has now surpassed the total number of cases in Italy with 130,759.
“The data indicate that in the next coming days, once we have reached the apex, we’ll be in condition of gaining control over the expansion of the coronavirus pandemic in Spain,” the country's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Saturday.
Sanchez said he will ask the parliament to extend the lockdown measures until at least April 26, adding that severe restrictions will pay off soon.
“We will start to recover some aspects of our lives. This is what we are planning,” he added.
On what would be a festive day in the Christian calendar, the pandemic muted Palm Sunday, which opens Holy Week leading up to Easter, with churches around the world trying to figure out how to celebrate while not putting their congregations at risk.
Pope Francis celebrated the Palm Sunday Mass inside the iconic St. Peter’s Basilica without the public for the first time.
Normally, tens of thousands of Catholics would have flocked to an outdoor mass led by the pontiff, but Vatican has said Francis will preside over all the traditional ceremonies without the public in keeping with the lockdown measures in Italy and at the Vatican.