ROME—Italy’s death toll from the coronavirus is poised to overtake China’s, making Italy’s outbreak the deadliest in the world and highlighting the danger that the pandemic poses for elderly people in particular.

Based on the fast-rising number of deaths in Italy in recent days, the country is likely to overtake China’s death toll by Thursday evening. Already on Wednesday, Italy reached 2,978 deaths, and its total is rising by close to 20% a day.

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