MILAN — With 427 deaths in the last 24 hours, Italy surpassed China on Thursday to become the country with the most coronavirus-related deaths.
Italy, with a population of 60 million, has now recorded at least 3,405 deaths, Angelo Borelli, the head of the country's Civil Protection Service, said at a news briefing.
That is 156 more than in China — a country with a population over 20 times larger — which has counted 3,249 deaths. New infections in Italy also shot up by 5,322, bringing the country's total to 41,035 — more than half the world's cases.
Italy reached the bleak milestone the same day that Wuhan, the Chinese city where the coronavirus first emerged three months ago, recorded no new infections, a sign that the communist country's draconian lockdowns were a powerful method to stop the virus' spread.
Health authorities have cited a variety of reasons for Italy's high toll, key among them its large population of elderly people, who are particularly susceptible to serious complications from the virus, although severe cases have also been seen in younger patients.
The country is home to the world's second-oldest population, and the vast majority of its dead — 87 percent — were over 70.
As a result, Italy's health care system has been overwhelmed by the virus, and on Thursday, Sun Shuopeng, the head of a Chinese Red Cross delegation helping advise Italy, said he was shocked to see so many people walking around, using public transportation, eating out and partying in hotels.
"Right now we need to stop all economic activity, and we need to stop the mobility of people," he said. "All people should be staying at home in quarantine."
Worldwide, the death toll crept toward 10,000 as the total number of infections topped 220,000, including nearly 85,000 people who have recovered.
Infections in the United States climbed past 10,000, and the virus appeared to be opening a new front in Africa, where countries announced aggressive measures to restrict travel and close public spaces.
Download the NBC News app for full coverage and alerts about the coronavirus outbreak
Elsewhere in Europe, Prince Albert II of the principality of Monaco, just south of France, also revealed that he had been infected.
The palace of Monaco announced that he tested positive but was continuing to work from his office and was being treated by doctors from Princess Grace Hospital, named after his mother, Grace Kelly, the American actress.