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LATEST: Italy confirms three more deaths from coronavirus

The number of coronavirus patients to have died in Italy reached 10 on Tuesday after regional authorities in Lombardy confirmed three more fatalities.

LATEST: Italy confirms three more deaths from coronavirus
An ambulance leaves hospital in Codogno, south eastern Lombardy. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

On Tuesday evening local officials and media sites in Italy reported three more deaths from coronavirus in the northern region of Lombardy.

It brought the death toll from the recent outbreak of the virus to 10. All 10 deaths have occurred since Friday when the number of infections began to surge.

Angelo Borelli, the chief of the regional Civil Protection agency has said that the three people who died on Tuesday were all elderly.

Their ages have been given as 83, 84 and 91 years old.

Authorities say the number of virus cases in the country has risen to 322.

MAP: These are the parts of Italy most affected by coronavirus

Tuscany reported its first two cases, including one in the tourist destination of Florence, while Sicily recorded one: a tourist from the worst-hit Lombardy region.

Italy and its neighbours have decided not to close their borders over the coronavirus, saying it would be a disproportionate and ineffective measure, their health ministers said Tuesday.

The decision came at an emergency meeting in Rome over the outbreak of the virus in Italy between Health Minister Roberto Speranza and his counterparts from Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Slovenia and Switzerland.

On Monday evening a 62-year-old man on dialysis from the north-western region of Lombardy, reports said on Monday evening.

It came hours after three other men were confirmed to have died on Monday, all of them men in their 80s from Lombardy.

READ ALSO: What do we know about the victims of coronavirus in Italy?

Another man and two women died over the weekend.

At least three of the deceased had other serious health problems, and most were over 75.

According to Italy's health ministry, more than 4,100 people had been tested for the virus.

Italy has now confirmed more cases of the COVID-19 virus than any other countries except China and South Korea, partly due to large-scale efforts to test thousands of people within days.

But new infections are increasing at a slower rate, said the head of the civil protection agency that is managing Italy's response to the coronavirus.

“I think the numbers that we have registered in Italy and in the rest of the world have been confined to reasonable figures,” said Angelo Borelli, adding that in his opinion the data did not point towards an impending pandemic.

ANALYSIS: Why has Italy seen a surge in coronavirus cases?


A sign advises that a hospital's emergency room is closed in one of the affected towns in Lombardy. Photo: AFP

The spread of the virus has disrupted high-profile events including Milan Fashion Week and the Venice Carnival.
 
On Monday evening, sports minister Vincenzo Spadafora announced that six Serie A football matches would be played behind closed doors.
 
And in Milan, operas have also had to be cancelled the city's famed La Scala.
 
Masses in churches across the affected regions have been cancelled and funerals limited to immediate relatives only.
 
'Eye of the storm'
 
The stock market in Milan was down over 5.0 percent on Monday in a broad-based sell-off over virus fears.
 
The Italian hotel association said it was “very worried” about the impact on bookings and that the country was in the “eye of the storm”.
 
Even as far south as Rome some tourists have started to take precautions, despite the city having no recent cases.

Authorities suspect several cases can be traced back to a 38-year-old man whom authorities have called “patient one”. Investigators are reconstructing minute by minute his movements over the past few weeks — where he slept, ate, walked — in a bid to trace everyone he could have come into contact with.

It is believed he may have transmitted the virus to several other people in a hospital in Lombardy before doctors realised he was infected.

READ ALSO: 'A strange, absurd situation': Life in Italy's coronavirus 'red zone'


Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The outbreak has prompted a series of drastic security measures to try to check the spread of the virus.

Eleven towns — ten in Lombardy and one in Veneto — are under lockdown, with some 50,000 residents prohibited from leaving. 

Schools have been closed as a precaution in Lombardy, Veneto, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna and Friuli Venezia Giulia, while regional authorities have ordered bars, restaurants, cinemas and discos to close.

The spread of the virus has disrupted high-profile events including Milan Fashion Week and the Venice Carnival while Serie A football matches will be closed to the public, and the upcoming annual Children's Book Fair in Bologna has been postponed. Operas have also had to be cancelled at Milan's famed La Scala.

Coronavirus: Italian Serie A football matches to be played in empty stadums

Production of the latest “Mission: Impossible” film starring Tom Cruise has also been halted in Venice as a precaution, Paramount Pictures said on Monday.

Amid reports of panic buying, mayor of Milan Beppe Sala urged people to remain sensible: “Rather than dashing to the supermarkets to grab food, perhaps we should spend time looking after the most vulnerable, such as old people, who are particularly at risk.”

According to Italy's national statistics institute, there are over seven million people in the country over the age of 75.

On Tuesday, Italy will host a meeting in Rome of health ministers from neighbouring countries Austria, Croatia, France, Germany, Slovenia and Switzerland to discuss the outbreak.

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COVID-19 RULES

Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

The new Italian government has announced the end of some remaining Covid health measures. Here's a look at what will - and won't - change.

Is Italy’s government planning to scrap all Covid measures?

Few Covid-related restrictions remain in Italy today, six months after the nationwide ‘state of emergency’ ended.

The previous government had kept only a handful of precautionary measures in place – which the new government, led by Giorgia Meloni, must now decide whether or not to keep.

The cabinet is holding a meeting on Monday and will issue a decree this week detailing any changes to the health measures.

Many expect the government to scrap all measures entirely by the end of the year, after Meloni and her party criticised the way Mario Draghi’s administration handled the pandemic throughout its tenure. 

Meloni clearly stated in her first address to parliament last Tuesday that “we will not replicate the model of the previous government” when it comes to managing Covid.

READ ALSO: Five key points from Meloni’s first speech as new Italian PM

While she acknowledged that Italy could be hit by another Covid wave, or another pandemic, she did not say how her government would deal with it.

Meanwhile, new health minister Orazio Schillaci issued a statement on Friday confirming the end of several existing measures, saying he “considers it appropriate to initiate a progressive return to normality in activities and behaviour”.

Workplace ban for unvaccinated medical staff

Schillaci confirmed that the ministry will allow doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals to return to work after being suspended because they refuse to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

Those who refuse vaccination will be “reintegrated” into the workforce before the rule expires at the end of this year, as part of what the minister called a “gradual return to normality”.

They will be allowed to return “in light of the worrying shortage of medical and health personnel” and “considering the trend of Covid infections”, the statement said.

Fines issued to healthcare staff aged over 50 who refused vaccination would also be cancelled, it added.

There were some 1,579 doctors and dentists refusing vaccination at the end of October, representing 0.3 percent of all those registered with Italy’s National Federation of the Orders of Physicians, Surgeons and Dentists (Fnomceo) 

Daily Covid data reports

Schillaci also confirmed in the statement that the health ministry will no longer release daily updates on Covid-19 contagion rates, hospital cases and deaths, saying this would be replaced by a weekly update.

It said it would however make the data available at any time to relevant authorities.

Mask requirement in hospitals to stay?

The requirement to wear face masks in hospitals, care homes and other healthcare facilities expires on Monday, October 31st.

At a meeting on the same day the government is expected to decide whether to extend the measure.

READ ALSO: What can we expect from Italy’s new government?

While the government had looked at scrapping the requirement, it reportedly changed stance at the last minute on Monday after facing heavy criticism from health experts.

Media reports published while the meeting was in progress on Monday said government sources had indicated the measure would in fact be extended.

Confirmation is expected to come later on Monday.

Italy’s face mask rules in care homes and healthcare facilities are up for renewal. Photo by Thierry ZOCCOLAN / AFP

‘Green pass’ health certificate

There is no indication that the new government plans to bring back any requirements to show a ‘green pass’: the digital certificate proving vaccination against or recent recovery from Covid, or a negative test result.

The pass is currently only required for entry to healthcare facilities and care homes, and this is expected to remain the case.

‘Dismantling the measures’

Some of the confirmed changes were strongly criticised by Italy’s most prominent healthcare experts.

Head of the Gimbe association for evidence-based medicine, Nino Cartabellotta, said the focus on cancelling fines for unvaccinated healthcare workers was “irrelevant from a health point of view .. but unscientific and highly diseducative”.

He told news agency Ansa it was “absolutely legitimate” for a new government to discontinue the previous administration’s measures, but that this “must also be used to improve everything that the previous government was unable to do”.

The government should prioritise “more analytical collection of data on hospitalised patients, investments in ventilation systems for enclosed rooms … accelerating coverage with vaccine boosters,” he said.

However, the plan at the moment appeared to be “a mere dismantling of the measures in place,” he said, “in the illusory attempt to consign the pandemic to oblivion, ignoring the recommendations of the international public health authorities”.

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