PV International Desk : The United States passed the grim milestone of 20,000 coronavirus deaths Saturday as huge swaths of the globe celebrated the Easter holiday weekend under lockdown at home.

The outbreak has now claimed the lives of at least 20,506 people in the US, which leads the world in deaths and in the number of declared infections — at least 527,111, according to a tally maintained by Baltimore-based Johns Hopkins University.

Italy, the hardest-hit country in Europe with a population a fifth the size of the US, recorded 19,468 confirmed virus fatalities.

But hopes began to rise in Western Europe and heavily infected parts of the United States that the pandemic was peaking, with many looking to China’s Wuhan, the disease’s original epicenter, where officials have been lifting stay-indoors restrictions and life began to return to normal.

Churches were expected to be empty on Easter Sunday, the climax of Holy Week for the world’s two billion-plus Christians, with congregations shuttered at home to stem a pandemic that has infected 1.7 million and killed more than 107,000.