Coffins are lined up on the floor in the San Giuseppe church in Seriate, Italy. File / AP
More than 500,000 people have officially died of COVID-19 in the European Union (EU), according to a tally compiled by AFP as of Wednesday, with the situation appearing to improve in the worst-hit countries.
The grim milestone was reached late on Tuesday; by 1200 GMT on Wednesday the death toll stood at 501,531 from 20,548,666 cases.
The European Union includes some of the world's worst-hit countries in the pandemic that broke out in the region early last year — in Italy. But recent trends point to improvements across the 27-member bloc.
During the seven-day period of Feb.3-9, the EU as a whole recorded an average daily of 103,250 new infections, which was 16 per cent down on the previous week. The average number of deaths each day was 3,137, or seven percent fewer.
Among the member states hardest hit by the pandemic, Spain showed the steepest decrease in new cases, with a drop of 31 per cent to a daily average of 21,945.
By comparison, the figures for Germany were 9,120 (down 20%), 19,348 for France (-7%), 2,795 for Sweden (-4%). In Italy the situation was stable with an average of 12,012 new cases per day.
Sweden's death rate saw the steepest drop, down 53 percent for an average of 53 deaths per day. Germany's toll was down 16 percent at 596, Italy's down 9% at 380 and France's down 7% at 416. Spain, on the other hand, has seen its average daily death toll rise 8% to 465.
Outside of the EU, Britain saw its daily average caseload shrink 27 percent to 17,075. The average daily death toll also decreased, by 26% to 834.
The coffin of man is transported on a cart for burial after dying of COVID-19 in Bucharest. AP
On Wednesday, Britain — the world's fifth hardest-hit country in overall deaths — had recorded 113,850 fatalities from 3,972,148 infections; France had 80,147 deaths from 3,360,235 cases; Spain 63,061 deaths from 3,005,487 cases; Italy 92,002 deaths from 2,655,319; Germany 62,969 deaths from 2,299,996 cases and Sweden 12,188 deaths from 596,174 cases.
Overall in Europe's 52 countries and territories, 34,902,124 cases have been recorded as of Wednesday.
With 785,106 fatalities, the region is the world's worst hit, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean region with 624,952 deaths and the United States and Canada with 489,091.
For the 52-nation region, the seven days of Feb.3-9 saw a daily average of 157,255 new cases, a decrease of 15 per cent over Jan.27-Feb.2. The average daily death toll also decreased, by 11 percent to 4,832.
The coronavirus pandemic has brought the world's top tourist draws, from the ruins of Machu Piccu to Thailand's sandy beaches, to a standstill.
The health ministry said 4,313 people who tested positive for the virus in hospital had died as of 1600 GMT Friday while there were 41,903 confirmed cases as of 0800 GMT Saturday, up 3,735.
Like millions of other Britons, the prime minister will be able to have a trim and a tipple on Saturday, when the country takes its biggest step yet out of coronavirus lockdown with the reopening in England of restaurants, pubs and hairdressers, along with secular and sacred venues including cinemas and church.
Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland told people they should still stay at home. Johnson's government has been accused by the opposition Labour Party of responding too slowly and late to an outbreak that has now produced the world's second highest death toll - something the government denies.
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