The United States now has more deaths in the coronavirus pandemic than any other country, with the numbers exceeding more than 19,600 on Saturday.
America, with roughly 2,000 a day reported for the last four days, has a higher overall figure than Italy, previously the worst-hit nation in the COVID-19 outbreak.
In the past week, the number of new coronavirus deaths each day has been about three times higher on average in the US than in Italy, where the total fatality figure now stands at 19,468.
Spain, also badly affected by the crisis, has a total of 16,353 deaths – but recorded its lowest amount, 510, in 19 days on Saturday, suggesting a glimmer of hope that the outbreak there may have peaked.
Authorities there are planning to roll back the strictest measures on Monday, allowing some workers to return to factories and construction sites.
America has five times the population of Italy and nearly seven times the population of Spain.
About half the deaths in the US have been in the New York metropolitan area. However, hospital admissions are now slowing down, suggesting social distancing measures in the city are helping to “flatten the curve” of infections.
But authorities have warned the crisis in the area is far from over, while Chicago and other cities across the Mid West are bracing for a potential surge in victims.
Nearly 300 inmates at the Cook County Jail in Chicago have tested positive for the virus, and two have died.
The pandemic’s epicentre has long since shifted from China, which earlier this week reported no new deaths for the first time during the outbreak, to Europe and the US.
Like most of the rest of the world, US residents are under unprecedented lockdown orders that have closed businesses and kept most people indoors to stop the spread of the virus.
Public health experts have warned that the country’s number of deaths could still increase massively and spike to 200,000 over the summer if orders are not kept in place for longer than 30 days.
Meanwhile, as many countries in Europe basked in sunshine over the Easter bank holiday weekend, authorities used all sorts of measures – including roadblocks in Italy and mounted patrols on beaches and in parks in Spain – to prevent people from travelling or staying outside.
“Don’t do silly things,” said Domenico Arcuri, Italy’s special commissioner for the virus emergency.
“Don’t go out, continue to behave responsibly as you have done until today, use your head and your sense of responsibility.”
However, some governments have started to take tentative steps towards relaxing the shutdowns, despite health experts warning that the virus could return if people are not careful enough.
Austria aims to reopen small shops on Tuesday, while Spanish authorities have said they will distribute 10 million face masks at major train and subway stations in a bid to prevent a jump in infections when some restrictions are lifted on Monday.
The head of the World Health Organisation, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has warned that easing restrictions prematurely could “lead to a deadly resurgence”.
Globally, confirmed infections have risen above 1.7 million, with more than 100,000 deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Close to 400,000 people have recovered from the disease.