Italy marks the end of March with tribute to coronavirus victims

Italian mayors stood alone outside town halls across the country at noon to observe a minute's silence, as flags flew at half mast to mourn the 11,591 people who have died from the coronavirus pandemic in the country.

Italy marks the end of March with tribute to coronavirus victims
Milan mayor Giuseppe Sala stands to attention outside the city hall during a minute of silence. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

Italy has suffered nearly a third of all fatalities caused by the disease around the world.

The day of mourning marks the end of a month in which Italy saw more deaths from a single disaster than at any time since World War II.

The outbreak was first detected in Italy near the northern city of Milan in late February.

Turin mayor Chiara Appendino marks the minute's silence on Tuesday March 31. Photo: AFP

Coronavirus “is an injury that hurt the whole country,” Rome mayor Virginia Raggi said after observing a minute's  silence at noon.

“Together we will get through this,” she said at a ceremony held outside Rome's city hall.

The Vatican City also flew its yellow-and-white flags at half mast in solidarity with the rest of Italy.

The Italian government imposed national quarantine measures three weeks ago to help stem the spread of a virus that has now officially infected more than 100,000 people in the country.

The government on Monday said it plans to extend the shutdown until at least mid-April.


Stores and restaurants are not expected to start opening until at least May, and no official is willing to predict when life might return to the way it was just a month ago.

“The sacrifice we make when we are asked to stay at home is necessary to save all of us,” Rome's mayor said.

“We must do it for all those who lost their lives and all those who put their lives at risk by working for us all – the doctors the nurses, the people who work in supermarkets.”

While there is evidence that the pandemic is slowing in Italy, authorites have said this does not mean measures will be lifted and continue to urge people to remain at home.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said any easing of containment measures would be done incrementally to ensure Italy does not undo any progress made against the disease.
Italy's ISS public health institute chief Silvio Brusaferro told La Repubblica on Monday that “we are witnessing a flattening of the curve,”
“There are no signs of a descent yet, but things are improving.”

The head of the infectious diseases department at Milan's Luigi Sacco Hospital that managed to isolate the Italian strain also said he was looking at the future with some hope.

“We have the impression that (the pandemic) is weakening,” Massimo Galli told Italian radio.

Italy reported 812 deaths on Monday. The highest single day toll was 969 on Friday – the worst 24-hour count recorded anywhere in the world.

While the estimated fatality rate is at around ten percent in Italy, experts say this is unlikely to be the  figure. The head of Italy's Civil Protection Department has said there are likely to be as many as ten times more cases in the country which have not been detected.

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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].”