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HEALTH

Italy’s coronavirus death toll overtakes China’s after another 427 fatalities

Italian authorities reported on Thursday that the total number of deaths passed 3,400 in the last 24 hours, meaning the country has now seen more fatalities than China.

Italy's coronavirus death toll overtakes China's after another 427 fatalities
Italy's caribinieri police patrolling central Rome to enfore quarantine measures on Thursday. Photo: AFP

Italy has recorded a total of 3,405 deaths, compared to China's 3,245.

The number of fatalities announced on Thursday was lower than the record high of 475 fatalities on Wednesday — the highest official one-day figure in the world.

The number of confirmed cases in Italy also jumped to 41,035 on Thursday, up from 35,713 in 24 hours.

This figure ncludes the deceased as well as 4,440 patients who are now said to have recovered from the illness caused by the virus.

China reported no new infections for the first time on Thursday.

Italian hospitals now have almost 2,500 patients in intensive care.

Infections have started to rise in the south of the country, though the north remains far worse affected. The region of Lombardy is by far the worst-hit part of the country – and Europe.

Lombardy alone has seen almost two-thirds of all the deaths related to the outbreak – 2,168 on Thursday – with almost 20,000 cases confirmed in the region.

Emilia-Romagna now has more than 5,000 confirmed cases, followed by Veneto with nearly 3,500.

The only region which has not reported any fatalities is the rural southern region of Basilicata.

Regional authorities in Lombardy have warned its hospitals are running out of intensive care beds.

Data from health authorities on Thursday showed the region's intensive care was at 94 percent of capacity.

The percentage of intensive care beds used in each Italian region. Graph: Italian Ministry of Health

Italy's ANSA news agency said the deaths of two more doctors in the nearby town of Como west of Bergamo on Thursday brought the total number of medics killed by the new disease to 13.

It will take days or weeks before Italy sees the numbers of infected and deceased stop rising after it implemented quarantine measures, experts said on Wednesday.

A poll published in La Repubblica newspaper on Thursday found 96 percent of all Italians viewed the closure of most business and all schools and public institutions “positively” or “very positively” and just four percent said they were opposed.

While the measures are not as extreme as those taken in China's quarantine of Wuhan's Hubei province, they still seemed unimaginable for a Western democracy until this month.

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Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Thursday that the government would be extending the quarantine period beyond the initial deadline of April 3rd.

Conte also warned that the government may also tighten quarantine rules yet further.

“Use your common sense and act with utmost caution,” Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte told Italians on Thursday. “We are not underestimating anything and always acting based on the worst-case scenario.”

Government ministers and regional governors have called for a ban on outdoor exercise and said parks and walkways across the country should be closed after 43,000 people across Italy were fined by police within one week for being outside “without a good reason”.

Member comments

  1. Theres been a Chinese population of 50000 in and around prato for years working in the clothing industry.. so how many went home for Chinese new year? And brought this virus to Italy? Why has this not been talked about???

  2. While I am happy to see Italy is receiving aid from China, it saddens me to see the Chinese propaganda machine (with the help of the media in America and Europe) being so successful in deflecting its responsibility for the origin of the virus, censoring news about it to the point of arresting citizen journalists who reported on it, banning search terms to keep people in China from finding info on the internet about it, keeping out WHO (with whom they are in bed with) and CDC doctors and lying about the virus spreading, stopping shipments of medical supplies to the States, and threatening to block any shipment of critical pharmaceuticals and antibiotics to America if we don’t stop saying it started in Wuhan. And they expect us to believe that they have stopped the virus in Wuhan? Seeing those boxes from China with “Siamo con voi” written on them makes me sick. It’s like an arsonist sending wood to rebuild your house after he’s burned it down. Forza Italia! Forza America!

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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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