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Pope's Sunday Prayer to Be Livestreamed as Coronavirus Spreads

FILE - Few tourists walk in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, March 6, 2020, the same day on which a Vatican spokesman confirmed the first case of coronavirus at the city-state.

Pope Francis's Angelus prayer on Sunday will be livestreamed in a break with centuries-old tradition, the Vatican announced as the number of coronavirus deaths in Italy soared past 200.

Worldwide, the number of cases exceeded 100,000 and the overall death toll was more than 3,500 across 95 nations and territories.

The World Health Organization called the spread "deeply concerning" as several countries reported their first cases of the COVID-19 disease.

In Rome, the Angelus prayers — normally delivered by the 83-year-old pontiff from his window — will "be broadcast via livestream by Vatican News and on screens in Saint Peter's Square," the Vatican said.

Italy is the worst-hit European country and its toll shot up Saturday by a single-day record of 1,247 cases to 5,883, along with 233 deaths.

Retired doctors were being recruited to bolster the health care system with 20,000 more staff, but civil protection officials said the northern Lombardy region was "experiencing difficulties with the [number of] beds available in hospitals."

Export data from China

In China, where the outbreak began in December, the virus wreaked havoc on the world's second-largest economy, shutting down businesses and disrupting global supply chains.

The negative impact was shown in official data Saturday, with Chinese exports plunging 17.2 percent in the first two months of the year.

However, the number of new cases reported Saturday in China was the lowest in weeks.

The government has hinted it may soon lift the quarantine imposed on Hubei province, the locked-down epicenter where some 56 million people have been effectively housebound since late January.

For the second consecutive day, there were no new cases reported in Hubei outside Wuhan, the province's capital.

But the number of infections beyond the epicenter rose for the third straight day, fueling fears about cases being brought into the country from overseas.