Ray of hope? Italy remains cautious after two-day drop in coronavirus cases

Ray of hope? Italy remains cautious after two-day drop in coronavirus cases
Health workers transport a coronavirus patient in Milan on March 23. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP
The world is watching keenly for signs that Italy's quarantine measures have paid off, but Italian officials remain cautious, saying the real number of cases could be ten times higher.

After two successive daily declines in the coronavirus death rate, Italy's top coronavirus response official on Tuesday said quarantine measures were “starting to have an effect.”

More data over the next few days will help Italian authorities to understand “if the growth curve is really flattening,” Italy's civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli said in an interview with La Repubblica.

The number of daily fatalities in Italy has come down from a world record 793 on Saturday to 651 on Sunday and 601 on Monday.

The number of new officially registered infections fell from 6,557 on Saturday to 4,789 on Monday.

ANALYSIS: When will the coronavirus epidemic in Italy peak?

The world is watching closely for a sign of hope from Italy, where more than 6,000 people have died during the coronavirus outbreak so far.

The data from Italy's regions is of crucial interest to global policy makers and medical experts, watching keenly for signs that strict national quarantine measures imposed two weeks ago have worked.

But top Italian officials have been extremely cautious to draw any definitive conclusions from the two-day drop.

Borrelli also noted that the real number of infections was probably 10 times higher than the official count.

Borrelli said he supported the measures because it was “credible” to assume “there is one infection counted for every 10 that are not”.

A police patrol on empty streets in Rome. Photo: AFP

Italy's daily deaths are still higher than those officially recorded in China at the peak of its crisis in Wuhan's central Hubei province.

They are also higher than those seen anywhere else in the world.

The civil protection chief also said the nation of 60 million was on course to overtake China's total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in a week.

Scientists believe that countries such as Spain and France are following in Italy's footsteps with a lag of a few weeks.

The numbers from the US are also similar to those of Italy's from about 20 days ago.

Most other European nations and some US states have followed Italy's example and imposed their own containment and social distancing measures designed to stop the spread.

READ ALSO: What are Italy's tightened coronavirus quarantine rules?

Following the two-day drop in numbers, Italian officials have doubled down on their message for everyone to stay home at all times, no matter the personal discomfort or economic pain.

Italy's national lockdown went into effect on March 12, and currently almost all businesses and shops, other than those deemed essential such as supermarkets and pharmacies, are closed, and people have been told to stay indoors.

The Italian prime minister said on Thursday that the quarantine measures “will be extended” beyond the original deadline of April 3rd, but no further details of the extension have yet been given.


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