Coronavirus: The five countries with the highest death toll

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·6-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
SENSITIVE MATERIAL. THIS IMAGE MAY OFFEND OR DISTURB Multiple members of the medical staff in protective suits treat an 18-year old patient suffering from coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in an intensive care unit at the San Raffaele hospital in Milan, Italy, March 27, 2020. REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo
Which five countries have seen the highest death tolls as a result of coronavirus? (Picture: REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo)

When coronavirus first emerged earlier this year, nobody could have predicted the effect it would have on the whole world.

A constantly-moving situation, the past few weeks have seen death tolls rise in countries across the globe, with European countries overtaking China in numbers of lives lost to COVID-19.

On March 11 the World Health Organization (WHO) labelled the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic and by March 27, Johns Hopkins University had recorded a total of 553,244 cases worldwide, with 25,034 deaths and 126,630 recovered cases.

Global coronavirus cases and deaths. See story HEALTH Coronavirus. Infographic PA Graphics
Global coronavirus cases and deaths. See story HEALTH Coronavirus. Infographic PA Graphics

While China initially appeared to be the worst hit by the virus, its spread to Europe proved to have catastrophic effects, with Italy’s death toll overtaking China’s on March 19 and Spain’s overtaking the death toll in China on March 25.

On Friday the United States also overtook China as having more confirmed cases of coronavirus than any other country, with 86,012 positive tests, though its death toll was still much lower than some other countries, at 1,301.

Latest coronavirus news, updates and advice

Live: Follow all the latest updates from the UK and around the world

Fact-checker: The number of COVID-19 cases in your local area

6 charts and maps that explain how COVID-19 is spreading

These are the five worst-affected countries across the world including the state of the virus in those countries, what they have done to combat COVID-19 and the prognosis for each country.


Italy as a country has suffered the largest number of deaths due to coronavirus, with statistics from Johns Hopkins University putting the number of deaths at 8,215 on March 27.

The virus was first confirmed to have spread to Italy on January 31, when two Chinese tourists in Rome tested positive for the virus and it went on to spread increasingly quickly.

Mickey puppets are seen attached to a railing with the Colosseum in the background in Rome, on March 20, 2020 during the country's lockdown within the new coronavirus crisis.Italy imposed the closure of all stores except for pharmacies and food shops in a desperate bid to control the deadly COVID-19 coronavirus that has killed 4032 till now. (Photo by Christian Minelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Italy is one of the hardest-hit countries when it comes to coronavirus (Picture: Christian Minelli/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The first deaths were recorded in February and by the start of March, COVID-19 had spread to all regions of Italy.

The Italian government has worked to limit the spread of coronavirus, suspending flights to and from China at the end of January and declaring a state of emergency.

In February, the government put 11 municipalities in the north of the country in lockdown, which was later spread even more.

The country went on to shut down most businesses and ban public gatherings nationwide on March 12 as it tried to halt the spread of the virus but on March 19 its death toll officially overtook China’s.

Italy’s ageing population has been blamed for dramatic effect of the virus, while some also blamed it on a failure to follow emergency guidance.

Positive tests had declined recently but have started to rise again, leading to concerns that the south of the country could be the next hotspot for the virus.


Spain appears to be following in the footsteps of Italy when it comes to the effect of coronavirus.

On Wednesday, March 25, Spain’s coronavirus death toll overtook China’s, climbing to 3,434, and has since risen to 4,858.

Two days later, on Friday, March 27, Spain’s death toll rose by 769 in the country’s largest single-day surge.

Like many other countries, Spain was put into a lockdown in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.

That initial lockdown, which bans people from leaving home except to buy essential supplies and medicine, or to go to work, was extended until April 11 on Thursday.


Coronavirus originated in China yet the number of people killed by the disease is now fewer in China than in Italy or Spain. There are also fewer recorded cases in China than in the United States.

On December 31, 2019, China alerted the WHO to several cases of an unusual pneumonia in Wuhan.

In January the virus was identified as a new virus and the first death was recorded in China on January 11.

Staff members spray disinfectant at a subway station in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province, as the subway prepares to reopen to the public after closing due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak. - China reported more than 50 imported cases of the coronavirus on March 27, hours after announcing a ban on foreigners entering the country. (Photo by STR / AFP) / China OUT (Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images)
Coronavirus first emerged in China but now other countries have overtaken it in terms of death toll. (Picture: STR/AFP via Getty Images)

The infection rate and death toll continued to rise and on January 23, Wuhan was placed under effective quarantine, with air and rail travel in the area suspended, while quarantines were also put in place in other cities and Chinese New Year events in Beijing were cancelled.

As the virus started to spread across the world, the death toll continued to rise in China.

In late February, the numbers of infections appeared to plateau as cases started to spike in other countries.

On March 27, the number of deaths in China stood at 3,174 but amid concerns that there could be another spike as foreign nationals return to the country, the government temporarily suspended entry into China by foreign nationals holding visas or residence permits as of March 28.


Iran is another of the hardest-hit countries, with more than 2,000 deaths and more than 30,000 cases as of March 27 since the first reported case in February 2020.

However, some believe the numbers are an under-estimate, with some critics accusing the Iranian government of a cover-up.

Iran is also believed to have been an epicentre for the spread of coronavirus across the Middle East, with more than 10 countries reportedly tracing their cases back to Iran.

TEHRAN, IRAN - MARCH 26: Health officials check body temperature of drivers and passengers at the entrance of the capital Tehran as travel ban across the country was issued within the precaution against coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak in Tehran, Iran on March 26, 2020. (Photo by Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
The spread of coronavirus in Iran has been blamed on people continuing to travel for Nowruz celebrations. (Picture: Fatemeh Bahrami/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

The government cancelled public events and Friday prayers, as well as closing schools, universities and shopping area.

However, it did not put a lockdown in place and the spread of coronavirus in Iran has been blamed by some on the large number of people who travelled during Nowruz new year holidays.

Another possible reason for the spread was blamed on false rumour claims, like the idea that drinking methanol would cure people.

The official death toll, according to Johns Hopkins University, stood at 2,378 on March 27 - two days after the Iranian government banned internal travel and warned of a “second wave” of COVID-19.


Coronavirus was confirmed to have spread to France on January 24 - also marking the first case in Europe.

The first death from COVID-19 outside of Asia was also in France when a Chinese tourist died on February.

Since then, numbers have continued to rise despite efforts to limit the spread of the virus.

A biologist gestures at motorists waiting to have samples taken at a  COVID-19 screening-drive in Montpellier, south-western France, on March 27, 2020, as the country is under lockdown to stop the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic caused by the novel coronavirus. (Photo by Pascal GUYOT / AFP) (Photo by PASCAL GUYOT/AFP via Getty Images)
France was where the first case in Europe was detected. (Picture: PASCAL GUYOT/AFP via Getty Images)

On March 12, French President Emmanuel Macron announced that all schools and universities would close from March 16, and the following day gatherings of more than 100 people were also banned.

Further steps included the closure of non-essential public places and on March 16 President Macron announced a national lockdown for at least 15 days starting at noon the following day.

The French government has also unveiled a £41bn (€45bn) aid package to help businesses and affected employees.

As of March 27, the death toll in France stood at 1,696, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Coronavirus: what happened today

Click here to sign up to the latest news, advice and information with our daily Catch-up newsletter

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting