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‘Coronavirus battle is not over’: Italy’s PM announces lockdown to continue until April 13th

Italy's Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte confirmed on Wednesday that the lockdown that has been in place since early March will be extended until April 13th.

'Coronavirus battle is not over': Italy's PM announces lockdown to continue until April 13th
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conté. AFP

“The scientific committee is beginning to see the results of the restrictions,” said Conte on the day when Italy recorded its lowest daily death toll for a week.

“But we're still a long way from the end, and therefore I've decided to sign a decree extending the measures until April 13.”

Italy has been in strict lockdown since March 12th with people confined to their homes and only allowed to leave for essential reasons such as shopping or health visits.

Bars and restaurants remain closed, and only essential businesses continue to function.

The current measures were due to expire on April 3rd.

But the extension had long been expected, and Italy's health minister said on Monday to expect shutdown to continue until “at least” April 12.

Officials are now debating how they can resume at least some business activity without spreading the new disease.

“I'm sorry that these measures arrive during a holiday period like Easter, but this increased effort will give us time to evaluate.

“We're not in a position to be able to ease the restrictions, to alleviate the inconvenience and spare you the sacrifices you are subjected to.”

Conte told the public any loosening of the measures could spark a new rise in the number of cases.

“If we started to loosen the measures, all of our efforts would have been in vain and we would pay a very high price. In addition to the psychological and social cost, we would be forced to start again, a doubled cost that we cannot afford. We ask everyone to continue to respect the measures.”

READ ALSO: 'More sacrifices to come': When will Italy finally reach the peak of the coronavirus epidemic?

 

He also warned he could not commit to when the lockdown would end.

“The conditions aren't right for me to say it will end on the 14th.”

“When the curve subsides we could enter phase two, that of coexistence with the virus.

“Then, there will be phase three: that of gradually restoring normality and rebuilding the country.

“The moment the data is consolidated and the experts give their response, we'll be able to identify an end date. But I can't give it today.”

'Lowest death toll in a week'

Italy on Wednesday reported 4.782 more coronavirus cases and 727 more deaths in the past 24 hours – the lowest number since March 26th.

The death toll figure rose by 727, compared to Tuesday's 837.

This brings the total number of fatalities to 13,155.

Another 4,782 cases of the new coronavirus were confirmed on Wednesday, according to the latest daily figures from Italy's Civil Protection department.

This represented a slightly faster rise in the number of new infections for the first time in six days – the rise has been gradually slowing day by day.

In total Italy has now confirmed 110,574 cases of coronavirus since the outbreak began, including the deceased and recovered patients.

Another 1,118 people had recovered on Wednesday figures showed, making a total of 16,847.

The death toll was slightly lower on Wednesday than on Tuesday, but some doubts were raised about the accuracy of data on fatalities.

Significantly there was only a rise of 12 in the number of patients in intensive care – 4,035 compared to 4,023 on Tuesday. In the early stages of the epidemic in Italy the number would rise by hundreds each day.

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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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