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.
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.
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.
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.