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HEALTH

UPDATE: Italy reports 475 new coronavirus deaths, the highest one-day toll of any country

Italy has now recorded almost 3,000 deaths related to the coronavirus outbreak, as the number of cases detected passes 35,000, authorities announced on Wednesday.

UPDATE: Italy reports 475 new coronavirus deaths, the highest one-day toll of any country
A medical worker at a hospital in Lombardy. Photo: Piero Cruciatti/AFP

Italy reported 475 new deaths in 24 hours from the new coronavirus – the highest one-day official toll of any nation since the first case was detected in China late in 2019.

There have now been a total of 2,978 deaths in Italy while the number of infections reached 35,713, officials said on Wednesday.

The previous record high of 368 deaths was also recorded in Italy, on Sunday.

Health experts in Italy said it remains difficult to predict when the number of fatalities and cases in Italy will peak, though some estimate this will happen between March 25 and April 15.

With the whole country living under strict quarantine rules since March 10th, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has previously said it would take at least ten days for the effects of the lockdown to be seen.

The vast majority of both cases and fatalities have been recorded in the northern Italian region of Lombardy, which is by far the worst hit by the outbreak.

READ ALSO: Here's what we know so far about Italy's coronavirus victims

The regional governor of Lombardy said on Wednesday that hospitals in the area may soon be “unable to help” any more patients as the numbers keep rising.

He repeated a call for people to stay at home and respect the quarantine rules.

Italian government ministers on Wednesday warned that they may tighten quarantine rules yet further, saying they are considering a complete ban on all outdoor activities including exercise, after 43,000 people across Italy were fined by police within one week for being outside “without a good reason”.

With the death rate still climbing despite the Mediterranean country entering a second week under effective lockdown, officials urged Italians to have faith and to stay strong.

“They main thing is, do not give up,” Italian National Institute of Health chief Silvio Brusaferro said in a nationally televised press conference.

“It will take a few days before we see the benefits” of containment measures, said Brusaferro.

“We must maintain these measures to see their effect, and above all to protect the most vulnerable.”

Imposed nationally on March 12th, the shutdown of most Italian businesses and a ban on public gatherings are due to expire on March 25.

READ ALSO: 'Hospitals are overwhelmed': Italian doctors describe their struggle to treat Lombardy's coronavirus patients

But school closures and other measures, such as a ban on fan attendance at sporting events, are due to run on until April 3.

A top government minister hinted Wednesday that the school closure would be extended well into next month, if not longer.

The rates within Italy itself remained stable, with two-thirds of the deaths — 1,959 in all — reported in the northern Lombardy region around Milan, the Italian financial and fashion capital.

The neighbouring Emilia-Romagna region of Bologna has suffered a total of 458 fatalities, and Turin's Piedmont region has had 154 deaths.

Rome's Lazio region has a toll of  32 deaths and 724 infections.

 

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COVID-19

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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