The army will be used to impose the lockdown in Lombardy – the region of Italy worst hit by the coronavirus outbreak.

“The request to use the army has been accepted… and 114 soldiers will be on the ground throughout Lombardy,” regional president Attilio Fontana told a news conference.

“It is still too little, but it is positive.”

Lombardy has also asked the government to further tighten the restrictions already in place, which include the closure of all non-essential commercial activities and a ban on public gatherings.

Mr Fontana, without giving numbers, added that the virus is still spreading in Lombardy, which has so far registered the highest number of cases and deaths in Italy.

“Unfortunately we are not seeing a change of trend in the numbers, which are rising,” he said.

Sky’s chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay has been reporting from a hospital in Bergamo – the worst-hit town in the province.

“The medical teams are fighting a war here and they are losing,” Ramsay said.

“The sheer numbers of people succumbing to the coronavirus is overwhelming every hospital in northern Italy – and it could easily overwhelm the rest of the country as well.”

The number of coronavirus patients to have died in Italy is now higher than the recorded death toll in China – where the outbreak began.

Some 427 more people with COVID-19 have died in Italy, taking the total number of deaths to 3,405.

The number of confirmed deaths in China is 3,245, while Wuhan – the city where the first case emerged – reported no new infections on Thursday.

The rise in cases across Europe comes as the Johns Hopkins University, which is tracking the virus, said over 10,000 people have now died around the world.

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