Shoppers in Milan buying essentials in bulk after the government issued a decree locking down much of Italy's north. — AFP/VNA Photo
ROME — Italy on Sunday recorded the second-highest coronavirus toll in the world, after reporting a sharp jump in deaths and overtaking South Korea on infections.
The number of fatalities nearly tripled, rising from 133 to 366 on Sunday, according to the civil protection agency, with most deaths occurring in the hard-hit Lombardy region in Italy's wealthy north.
The country now has the most deaths of any country outside China, and the second-most COVID-19 infections in the world, after the number of cases rose by a single-day record of 1,492 to 7,375.
South Korea currently has some 7,313 cases, and Sunday said its rate of infection was slowing.
Civil protection agency chief Angelo Borrelli said Italy was ordering 22 million surgical masks to help stop the spread.
Over 15 million Italians were adjusting to life in lockdown after the government issued a decree shutting off whole swathes of the north, including the city of Venice and the financial capital Milan.
It was not clear, however, how strictly the order would be enforced, or how authorities could prevent people from leaving.
Preventative measures were also imposed on the rest of the country, including the closure of all museums and monuments.
Lowest new virus infections for 2 weeks
South Korea, which has one of the world's largest coronavirus totals outside China, on Monday reported its smallest daily rise in cases for two weeks.
A total of 248 cases were confirmed on Sunday, the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC) said.
The increase took its total to 7,382. Each morning, the South announces how many cases were diagnosed the previous day, and gives an update every afternoon with the current day's figures so far.
Sunday's figure fell for the fourth day in a row and was the lowest since late February.
The South was the first country to report significant coronavirus numbers outside China, where the disease first emerged.
But in recent days the focus of global concern has been moving towards Italy and Iran, a quarter of Italy's population in lockdown Sunday as Rome announced infections soaring past 7,000 and deaths spiking to 366.
The South has had 51 deaths, according to KCDC. Specialists say a key factor behind the South's much lower fatality rate from the virus relates to the pattern of people being infected.
Most of the South's cases are connected to the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, a secretive religious group often condemned as a cult, many of whose members are women in their 20s and 30s.
But global figures show the virus is most deadly among older population groups, and in men in particular.
Scores of events in the South – from K-pop concerts to sports matches – have been cancelled or postponed over the contagion, with school and kindergarten breaks extended by three weeks nationwide.
Hundreds of churches held online services on Sunday. — AFP