Italy has reported its highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in one day, with 919 deaths announced on Friday.
It has also surpassed China in the number of confirmed cases, with 86,498 cases compared to China’s 81,897, according to Italy’s Civil Protection Agency.
The hardest-hit region of Lombardy reported a sharp rise in fatalities compared with the day before, with 541 more deaths.
Italy has the highest death toll of any country, recording 9,134 deaths.
Prior to Friday’s figure, the largest daily death toll was reported on 21 March, when 793 people were said to have died.
Some 10,950 of those infected in the country had fully recovered as of Friday, compared to 10,361 the day before.
On Friday evening, Pope Francis gave an extraordinary Urbi et Orbi blessing from an almost deserted St Peter’s Square at the Vatican.
The Urbi et Orbi blessing, which means to the city and the world, is usually only held at Christmas and Easter.
The second worst-hit nation, Spain, said the number of people who have died after testing positive for coronavirus has risen by 769 in one day, taking the total to 4,858.
The number of confirmed cases of the COVID-19 disease in Spain also went up on Friday from 56,188 to 64,059, according to the national health ministry.
Spain ranks fourth for the number of confirmed cases worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.
France has reported 299 new deaths, taking its total to 1,995, as its government decided to extend its national lockdown by two weeks.
The daily tally currently accounts only for those dying in hospital, and authorities say there could be a big increase in registered fatalities when they are able to compile the number of deaths in care homes.
China has seen a sharp decrease in new cases and has suspended visits from almost all foreign nationals – a turnaround from the situation in January, when the US and Europe were limiting travel from China.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide topped 500,000 on Thursday.
There have been concerns that Spain could become the new epicentre of the pandemic in Europe, as the number of cases and deaths has continued to rise.
However, health emergency chief Fernando Simon said the numbers were showing some signs of stabilising since a lockdown was imposed by the government earlier this month.
“In percentage terms, today’s increase is roughly equivalent to that of the past three days, in which we seem to see a clear stabilisation,” he said.
Hotels are being converted into hospitals to deal with the outbreak, and an ice rink at a Madrid shopping mall is being used as a temporary morgue to store bodies until they can be buried or cremated.
An investigation has also been launched after troops disinfecting nursing homes discovered elderly people living amid the corpses of suspected coronavirus victims.
The Spanish army has asked fellow NATO countries for coronavirus testing kits, ventilators and protective gear.
Spain’s central bank expressed fears for the state of the country’s economy following the outbreak, with many businesses in the country having already started to temporarily lay off thousands of workers.
Meanwhile, 185 new deaths have been reported in the UK, taking its total to 769.
A further three deaths were announced in the Republic of Ireland on Friday, meaning 22 people have died after testing positive for coronavirus in the Republic since the outbreak began.
Many European nations may be looking to Germany for inspiration in tackling the disease, with the country so far recording an incredibly low death rate compared to neighbouring nations.
In Germany, just 0.6% of their confirmed coronavirus cases have so far ended up being fatal – the lowest figure among any of the most affected countries.
The next lowest case fatality rate is 1.4%, which can be found in the US, Switzerland, Portugal and South Korea, while in some countries the death rate is substantially higher.
In Italy, 10.1% of confirmed cases have ended up proving fatal.
The German statistics have been put down to the sheer number of tests being carried out in the country, where substantially more people are being tested than in the likes of the UK.
Britons are only being tested when they need medical assistance, whereas Germany is seeking to emulate Asian countries like South Korea by pursuing an enormous nationwide testing campaign.
As a result, Germany has identified more mild instances of the disease, which do not end up being fatal.