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Italy’s coronavirus toll tops 4,000 after 627 new deaths in one day

Italy on Friday reported a record 627 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, taking its overall toll to 4,000 as the pandemic gathered pace.

Italy's coronavirus toll tops 4,000 after 627 new deaths in one day
Photo: AFP

The Mediterranean country's daily death rate is now higher than that officially reported by China at the peak of its outbreak around Wuhan's Hubei province.

Italy's previous one-day record death toll was 475 on Wednesday.

Italy has seen more than 1,500 fatalities from COVID-19 in the past three days alone.

It has now recorded the five highest one-day tolls officially registered around the world.

Italy's total number of deaths now stands and 4,032. Infections rose by nearly 6,000 to 47,021.

The nation of 60 million currently accounts for 36.6 percent of the world's coronavirus deaths.

“There are so many people walking around who have the virus and who are at risk of infecting others,” Matteo Bassetti, the director of the infectious diseases department at Genoa's San Martino clinic, told Italy's AGI news 
agency.

 “The 40,000 cases we are talking about could actually be 100 times higher.”

Italy's government said on Friday it is considering even further restrictions on its already locked-down population as the country reels under the continued spread of the coronavirus.

“In the next 24 to 48 hours, new restrictions are possible,” Italy's minister of regional affairs Francesco Boccia said Friday, citing the possibility of banning open-air activities.

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The presidents of regions in the north — Italy's richest and the most devastated by the virus — have been pressing Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to clamp down even harder on the movement of people, calling for the deployment of the army to help enforce the measures. 

“Unfortunately, even today the statistics aren't going in the right direction, neither in terms of new infections or in terms of deaths,” Lombardy's president Attilio Fontana told a press conference on Friday.

A list of requests by mayors throughout Lombardy would be submitted to Conte on Friday, he added.

Fontana has asked Conte to close all private and public offices, other than essential ones, as well as construction sites, and to crack down harder on people who continue to flout the quarantine. 

“I tried to convince him that we have to take more rigorous measures,” Fontana told La7 television on Thursday, referring to a conversation with Conte.

“We can't joke around anymore.”

The government  imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 12 and had been hoping to see the first results after two weeks.

But civil protection service chief Angelo Borrelli said Friday it was premature to think about when infections might begin to plateau.

“There are reasons to think that it could be next week or the week after,” Borrelli told reporters.
“But it is not a scientific fact.”

Italy's death rate of 8.6 percent among those registered with infections is significantly higher than in most other countries.

Medical experts have mainly attributed this to Italy's older than average population.

The overwhelming majority of Italy's fatal cases involved elderly people with at least one pre-existing condition.

The National Health Institute (ISS) said Friday that the average age of Italy first 3,200 victims was 78.5.

Almost 49 percent of them had three or more pre-existing conditions.

Just 1.2 percent of those who died had no other ailments.

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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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