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- Italy, Spain, and France each reported slight declines in daily coronavirus death tolls on Sunday.
- The three countries responded to the coronavirus with strict national lockdowns in early to mid-March, and they have no imminent plans to loosen those restrictions.
- During an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press," Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte reminded his country that social distancing "is the only way to defeat the pandemic altogether" and pleaded, "Stay home as much possible. Do not go out."
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After weeks of bleak headlines, a handful of European nations — Italy, Spain, and France — on Sunday reported a drop in coronavirus death tolls.
Italy has the highest death toll of any country impacted by the coronavirus. At least 15,889 people are dead as of Sunday, up from 15,364 on Saturday — an increase of 525 deaths, which is the country's smallest increase in daily deaths since March 19.
Sunday also marks the third day of declines in Italy's fatalities, following 766 deaths on Friday and 681 on Saturday, according to statistics website Worldometer. The number of new cases also fell from 4,805 on Saturday to 4,316 on Sunday, bumping up the total caseload to 128,948.
"We are suffering very much. It's a devastating pain," Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday.
Conte put the country of 60 million residents on lockdown on March 10, and then proceeded to restrict movement even internally. People have been ordered to stay home, but those who emerge for work or essential business, including going to grocery stores or pharmacies, have to cover their noses and mouths. Since the lockdown was imposed, Italian police officers have fined more than 175,000 people for violating the rules, the Hill reported.
"Our response has not been perfect, maybe, but we have been acting [to] the best of our knowledge," Conte said to NBCs Chuck Todd. "Today, I see that our model is implemented by other countries and its validity has been acknowledged by the [World Health Organization], and the results so far indicate that we are on the right path."
When the unprecedented step was first announced, Conte planned to keep the strict restrictions in place until April 3. He has since said that they will be in effect till at least April 13. However, he told NBC on Sunday that he cannot yet say for certain when the containment measures will be lifted.
Medical experts across the globe have said that social distancing is the only way to reduce the rapid rate at which COVID-19 spreads. The goal, they say, is to "flatten the curve" of the infection so that local healthcare systems aren't overrun by patients.
The United States, however, has adopted a more piecemeal version that relies on states' authorities making these tough decisions. As of Sunday, more than 1.26 million people have tested positive for the coronavirus and over 69,000 are dead. Of those cases, 331,200 are located in the US, where almost 9,500 people are dead, based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
'Stay home as much possible'
Meanwhile, Spain, the second-worst-hit country with a caseload of 130,759 and 12,418 deaths, also saw a drop in daily coronavirus deaths for the fourth consecutive day. This means 674 people died on Sunday, compared to 749 on Saturday, 850 on Friday, and 961 on Thursday, Worldometer shows.
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez introduced a two-week lockdown on March 14, which was first extended to April 11 and then April 25 as the country struggled to cope with an escalation in COVID-19 cases, Bloomberg said.
Similar data came out of France as well.
At least 90,864 French residents have tested positive for the coronavirus and 7,575 are dead. The nation's death toll went up by 518 on Sunday, but that jump is a sharp drop from previous days.
Based on Worldometer, France confirmed 1,355 deaths on Thursday, 1,120 on Friday, and 1,053 on Saturday.
As is the case in other parts of Europe, France went on lockdown on March 17. Although initially mandated for 15 days, the stay-at-home order will remain in place through April 15. Prime Minister Édouard Philippe said that a second extension is likely, France 24 reported.
Moreover, he said, "it is likely that we are not going to see an end to confinement that would happen in one move everywhere and for everyone."
Conte, acknowledging that he is asking the Italian public for a "great sacrifice," reminded them that "it's the only way to defeat the pandemic altogether."
"Stay home as much possible. Do not go out," he said.
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