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Italy registers lowest number of new coronavirus cases in 20 days

Mar 30, 2020

Rome.- Italy will extend «all» measures taken so far to contain the spread of the coronavirus, including obligatory self-isolation and movement restrictions, until «at least» April 12, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said Monday.

The restrictions were to have expired on April 3.

The minister made his announcement at a meeting with the technical and scientific committee that advises him and from which he received the recommendation to extend the term of all containment measures «at least until Easter,» or April 12.

«The government will act in that direction,» he read from a communique.

The extension had been widely expected in Italy and the head of the Superior Health Advisory Board, Franco Locatelli, upon being asked on Monday about the potential reopening of the country, responded: «We will speak about that after Easter.»

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had warned that the government probably would extend the containment measures for an additional two weeks.

Italian authorities feel that social distancing and nationwide movement restrictions are the most effective means to contain the spread of the virus.

Thus, they moved early to isolate and shut down the initial foci of the epidemic, namely 11 municipalities in the regions of Lombardy and Venice, and later the entire province of Lombardy along with 14 other provinces, and ultimately on March 9 the entire national territory.

Italy so far has registered 101,739 confirmed coronavirus cases since the crisis began here on Feb. 20, with 75,528 of these patients still infected and 11,591 having died, particularly in the northern part of the country, according to the latest figures.

Meanwhile, Italy, which has suffered more deaths from the coronavirus than any other country, on Monday registered the lowest number of new infections in 20 days, officials said.

Since Sunday, 1,648 new cases have been confirmed, the lowest figure since March 9 when the number of cases began to skyrocket, and which is half of the number of new infections that were reported on the previous two days.

«The number of positive cases is falling,» the president of the Superior Council of Healthcare Franco Locatelli told a press conference.

But the country confirmed 812 additional deaths, the Civil Protection Agency said, bringing the total number of fatalities associated with COVID-19 to 11,591, about one-third of all global deaths from the virus.

Of the active cases, 58 percent only have mild symptoms and are recovering at home.

Of those originally infected nationwide, 14,620 had fully recovered as of Monday, compared to 13,030 the day before. However, there were 3,981 people in intensive care, up from a previous 3,906.

Locatelli said that «1,590 recovered, the highest figure since the beginning of the coronavirus emergency,» but he urged people to continue adhering to the strict restrictions that have been in place for most of the month.

«Every one of us must respect the advice of the authorities, we must follow the instructions to stay at home and go out only for the bare minimum, because only by respecting these measures will we be able to defeat the virus as soon as possible.»

One of the most oft-repeated questions in Italy since the crisis began has been to ask whether the country has reached the «peak» of the curve of new cases.

«There are several theories but I prefer to point to the slowing of the growth of infections and the pressure on hospitals,» Locatelli said.

Lombardy, Italy’s ground zero for the epidemic and the country’s hardest-hit region, «is on the right path», Governor Attilio Fontana said on Monday.

«The data I’m receiving shows that we’re on the right path, we must maintain this line (on the curve) which is no longer rising. It’s not falling yet, but it’s not increasing,» he said.

«This is the positive aspect we are watching with interest, attention and hope,» the governor said at a separate press conference.

New cases are also falling in this northern region, a powerhouse of the Italian economy which has been on lockdown since early March.

On Monday, new infections numbered 1,154, down from 2,117 on Saturday, although the daily death toll rose to 458, an increase of 42 in the past 24 hours.

One of the more hopeful figures was that, over the last day, only nine additional people required treatment in an intensive care unit, a welcome boost to authorities which fear the potential collapse of a healthcare system that is being stretched to breaking point.

The regional authorities have set up field clinics to lessen the burden the hospitals, while autopsies have been suspended except – in murder cases – to avoid overcrowding the morgues, according to an internal memo by prosecutor Francesco Greco that was circulated in Italian media.

While the situation in Italy remains dire, its fatality rate of around 10 percent is likely misleading, given the lack of testing for the coronavirus being conducted.

In Wuhan, China, where the virus originated, the death rate reportedly was around 1.4 percent, while in Germany, the figure is under 0.5 percent.

According to Matteo Villa, an analyst for the Italian Institute for International Political Studies, the reason for that discrepancy is testing. Germany has carried out far more extensive testing than Italy has been able to.

The indication is that the rate of deaths in Italy is actually significantly lower, but that the overall rate of infection is much higher than official statistics.

The current data only «give an idea of to what extent a country has lost touch with how widespread the infections are,» Valli told a press conference.

It is for that reason that experts insist that the most important weapon at any country’s disposal is people for the public to remain at home.

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