Spain reports 655 deaths in a day

The number of declared coronavirus cases in Europe topped 250,000, more than half of which are in hard-hit Italy and Spain. But over the last 24 hours both countries reported improvements.

Spain registered 655 fatalities from the coronavirus – down from more than 700 on Wednesday, while Italy confirmed a lower rate of infections. The World Health Organization’s (WHO) European office said it saw “encouraging signs”, cautioning it was too early to say whether the worst had passed.

More than three million Americans filed new claims for unemployment insurance last week amid the coronavirus pandemic, breaking the previous record as the first wave of layoffs batter the US economy.

14:16 GMT – Polish priest offers drive-thru confessions to beat coronavirus
A parish priest in western Poland is offering his flock the possibility of Easter confessions from the comfort of their own car as social distancing to fight the coronavirus becomes the new norm.

“We’ve already done a practice run… I have an appointment with a family of five tomorrow and next week I’m due to hear a parishioner confess every sin from his entire life,” Father Adam Pawlowski told AFP news agency.

The priest from the western village of Rogalin plans to park his car in an alley by the church and will roll down his window for the parishioner parked at least 1.5 metres (five feet) away to avoid any potential coronavirus infection.

14:10 GMT – Germany aims to speed up virus diagnosis, treatment
The German Ministry of Education and university hospitals have come together to share knowledge about the new coronavirus and advance new strategies for diagnosis and treatment of COVID-19.

The alliance aims to carry out work on tests, drugs and a possible vaccine. The initiative is based on a proposal by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Germany has increased its ability to test for the new coronavirus to 500,000 a week.

14:03 GMT – Lebanon to impose overnight shutdown to confront coronavirus pandemic – minister
Lebanon will begin an overnight shutdown from 7 pm to 5 am, with some exceptions to be announced later, as it steps up measures to combat coronavirus, Information Minister Manal Abdel Samad said.

Finance Minister Ghazi Wazni has requested that all public institutions suspend work until further notice as part of stricter measures, a Finance Ministry statement said.

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