Coronavirus: Italy deaths leap by 627 to 4,032 - biggest rise in 24 hours

Lucia Binding, news reporter

Italy's death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has leapt 627 to 4,032 - by far the largest daily rise so far.

The country's health ministry is imposing stricter measures in an effort to contain the worst coronavirus outbreak in Europe, including closing all parks and public gardens from Saturday.

Soldiers were also drafted in to help enforce a lockdown following the announcement of the new deaths.

On Thursday, Italy overtook China as the country to register the highest number of deaths from the disease.

The national health institute (ISS) said the average age of those who died was 78.5 years, with the youngest victim 31 and the oldest 103 in its most complete analysis of the outbreak - which is yet to be published.

With around 23% of people aged over 65, Italy has the oldest population in the world after Japan.

Medical experts say these demographics could explain why the death toll in Italy is so much higher than the rest of the world.

In efforts to limit people's movements in the country, parks and public gardens will be shut down and people will be allowed to take exercise only around their homes from the weekend.

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Games and recreational activities in the open air will also be banned.

"We must do even more to contain the contagion," Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a statement.

COVID-19 has infected more than 250,000 people worldwide and killed more than 11,000 according to worldwide tracking from Johns Hopkins university.