United Kingdom

Europe's coronavirus death toll tops 30,000 as cases soar to more than 450,000

The coronavirus pandemic has now killed more than 30,000 people in Europe, just three weeks after the continent was declared the new epicentre of the virus.

Three quarters of the deaths have been registered in hardest-hit Italy and Spain, which have announced 12,500 deaths and 8,500 deaths respectively.

Meanwhile the number of cases on the continent has soared from 36,347 on March 13 - the day the epicentre shifted - to 458,601 today.

China has announced just 82,301 infections and 3,310 deaths from the virus, though doubt has been cast on those figures.

Europe's death toll from coronavirus has passed 30,000 - accounting for three quarters of the world total and with Italy (pictured) and Spain the hardest-hit

Between them, Italy (pictured) and Spain have accounted for some 21,000 deaths - though authorities in Rome appear to have flattened the curve of new infections

Most of Europe is now in total or partial lockdown to slow the spread of the virus and prevent health services being overwhelmed, though a few countries - notably Sweden and Belarus - have largely carried on with life as normal.

Italy, which was the first to announce a nationwide lockdown three weeks ago, now appears to have flattened the curve of infection. 

Cases are still increasing in the country, but the rate at which they are increasing appears to have levelled off meaning the situation there should begin to ease.

However, the outlook for the continent as a whole is bleak, with infection and death rates still accelerating in Spain, France, Germany, Belgium and the UK.

Meanwhile countries such as Switzerland, Austria, Norway, Poland, Denmark, and Sweden have reported steady increases in cases - meaning more deaths will follow.

And because of the way infection and death rates increase - following an exponential curve - all countries except Italy will likely see dramatic increases in both infections and deaths the coming days and weeks.

Spain (pictured) now looks set to overtake Italy as the worst-affected country, as the death rate rapidly accelerates and with lockdown measures not yet making an impact

Spain went into a nationwide lockdown two weeks ago and has deployed the armed forces to disinfect public spaces, though the infection and death rates continue to soar

Spain has opened new morgues across the country, including this one in Madrid, to cope with the number of deaths over the coming days and weeks

Europe is the hardest-hit region on earth, with the continent accounting for roughly three quarters of the 40,000 global deaths from the virus. 

Amid the bleak outlook, European shares tumbled on Wednesday as fears grew of a new global recession.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down 2.9%, with Tuesday's session rounding off its worst quarter in 18 years during which it lost about $2.8 trillion in market value.

HSBC, Santander and Lloyds of London were among the biggest drags on the benchmark index after joining European peers in suspending dividend payments to shore up liquidity.

The wider banking index fell back near record lows following a rebound last week that was powered by aggressive fiscal and monetary stimulus from around the world.

'The optimism that we saw is very very early days and it's way too early to call a turning point in this crisis,' said Bert Colijn, senior economist at ING in Amsterdam.

Other countries such as France, Germany and the UK are lagging a short way behind Italy and Spain but are expected to see rapid increases in the coming days (pictured, a temporary new hospital in London to treat coronavirus patients) 

The ExCeL London Centre is being refitted to create thousands of new beds for COVID-19 sufferers, complete with oxygen, ventilators and other key equipment

'In Europe, we see cautious signs that the containment measures may be having an impact, but things in the U.S. continue to develop quite quickly. Investors are swinging between the two and that's dominating markets at the moment.'

The situation is also rapidly worsening in the USA where almost 190,000 people have been infected with the number of deaths heading towards 4,000.

President Trump - after initially playing down the severity of the virus - has now admitted that up to 240,000 people will die even in a best-case scenario.

America's death toll has now exceeded figures reported by China, while the country has the most confirmed infections of any nation in the world.

With governors left to manage lockdowns on a state-by-state basis amid shortages of protective equipment and life-saving tools such as ventilators, the rate of new infections and deaths shows no sign of slowing either.

Trump has warned Americans of a 'painful' two weeks ahead after initially hinting that the economy could be largely reopened by Easter.

The situation is also rapidly deteriorating in the US which has confirmed almost 190,000 cases of the virus, the most of any single country

President Trump, who initially downplayed the severity of the virus, has now admitted that up to 240,000 people could die as a best-case scenario 

Millions of Americans are expected to loose their jobs in an economic downturn that has been compared to the Great Depression.

Data from the euro zone showed a collapse in manufacturing activity in March, with analysts predicting a prolonged halt in supply chains could deepen the decline in the next few months.

'It would be naive to assume that the virus saga is already priced in,' said Charalambos Pissouros, senior market analyst at JFD Group.

'We see decent chances for equities to trade south and for safe-havens to shine again.'

The risk-off sentiment on Wednesday drove investors to the perceived safety of gold, while in European equities, telecoms , health care and utilities, commonly considered defensives, posted the smallest declines.

Profit for companies listed on the STOXX 600 is now expected to slide by a fifth in the second quarter, deepening a European corporate recession, while dividends paid by those firms are forecast to fall by about 40%.

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