Daily rise in Italy’s coronavirus infections slows again

The number of fatalities has dropped for the second day running, but Italy continues to be the country with the highest coronavirus death toll in the world with 10,779.

Daily rise in Italy's coronavirus infections slows again
Photo: AFP

Italy’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak rose by 756 to 10,779, the country’s Civil Protection Agency said on Sunday.

The figure represents the second successive fall in the daily rate since Friday, when 919 people died in Italy. Saturday’s fatality rate was 889.

Italy’s Covid-19 death toll remains by far the highest in the world (accounting for roughly a third of all deaths), followed by Spain which has seen more than 6,500 deaths.

A total of 5,217 new cases were reported on Sunday in Italy, down from 5,974 on Saturday.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has asked the public “not to drop their guard” rather than assuming that the virus has passed its peak.

Nevertheless, the daily rise in infections has slowed to 5.6 percent – the lowest rate since Italian officials started tracking cases following the first death on February 21.

In the epicentre of the pandemic, the region around Milan where the number of cases previously increased daily, the number of Italians receiving intensive care remained almost unchanged.

“We are witnessing a slowdown,” University of Milan virologist Fabrizio Pregliasco told the Il Corriere della Sera daily.

“It is not plateau yet, but it is a good sign.”

Italy closed all of its schools at the start of the month and then began gradually imposing a lockdown, tightening it successively until almost all stores were shut on March 12.

The measures – since adopted to varying degrees across most of Europe – did not prevent Italy's death toll from overtaking that in China, where the disease was first reported, on March 19.

And while the lockdown — which is officially due to end on April 3 – is economically painful, officials appear determined to extend it until the coronavirus is finally stopped in its tracks.

Regional affairs minister Francesco Boccia said the question facing the government was not whether it would be extended, but by how long.

“The measures expiring on April 3 will inevitably be extended,” Boccia told Italy's Sky TG24 television.

“I think that, at the moment, talking about re-opening is inappropriate and irresponsible.”

A final decision is expected to be made at a ministerial meeting in the coming days.

Boccia also indicated that the eventual easing of the different confinement measures would be gradual.

“We all want to go back to normal,” he said. “But we will have to do it by turning on one switch at a time.”

In theory, the existing state of national health emergency allows Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to extend the lockdown until July 31.

Conte has said that he would like to lift the severest restrictions — including those forcing the suspension of Italy's Serie A football season — a few months prior to that.

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Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

The mandatory EU-wide mask requirement for air travel is set to be dropped from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still require passengers to wear masks on some or all flights

Covid face mask rule on flights in Europe set to be eased

Europe-wide facemask rules on flights are set to be ditched as early as next week in light of new recommendations from health and air safety experts.

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) dropped recommendations for mandatory mask-wearing in airports and during flights in updated Covid-19 safety measures for travel issued on Wednesday, May 11th.

The new rules are expected to be rolled out from Monday, May 16th, but airlines may still continue to require the wearing of masks on some or all of flights. And the updated health safety measures still say that wearing a face mask remains one of the best ways to protect against the transmission of the virus.

The joint EASA/ECDC statement reminded travellers that masks may still be required on flights to destinations in certain countries that still require the wearing of masks on public transport and in transport hubs.

It also recommends that vulnerable passengers should continue to wear a face mask regardless of the rules, ideally an FFP2/N95/KN95 type mask which offers a higher level of protection than a standard surgical mask.

“From next week, face masks will no longer need to be mandatory in air travel in all cases, broadly aligning with the changing requirements of national authorities across Europe for public transport,” EASA executive director Patrick Ky said in the statement. 

“For passengers and air crews, this is a big step forward in the normalisation of air travel. Passengers should however behave responsibly and respect the choices of others around them. And a passenger who is coughing and sneezing should strongly consider wearing a face mask, for the reassurance of those seated nearby.”  

ECDC director Andrea Ammon added: “The development and continuous updates to the Aviation Health Safety Protocol in light of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic have given travellers and aviation personnel better knowledge of the risks of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants. 

“While risks do remain, we have seen that non-pharmaceutical interventions and vaccines have allowed our lives to begin to return to normal. 

“While mandatory mask-wearing in all situations is no longer recommended, it is important to be mindful that together with physical distancing and good hand hygiene it is one of the best methods of reducing transmission. 

“The rules and requirements of departure and destination states should be respected and applied consistently, and travel operators should take care to inform passengers of any required measures in a timely manner.”