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HEALTH

‘The curve has started its descent’: Italy records lowest virus death toll in over two weeks

Italian officials said on Sunday they may soon have to consider easing restrictions after seeing Italy's daily coronavirus death toll plunge to its lowest in over two weeks.

'The curve has started its descent': Italy records lowest virus death toll in over two weeks
Grass grows between Rome's famous cobblestones in the deserted city centre. Photo: Tiziana Fabi/AFP

The 525 official Covid-19 fatalities reported by Italy's civil protection service on Sunday were the lowest since the 427 registered on March 19.

They also represented a decline of 23 percent from the 681 deaths reported on Saturday.

The total number of people hospitalised across Italy fell for the first time, from 29,010 to 28,949 in a day.

This comes accompanied by another positive figure: it's the second day-to-day decrease in the number of patients in intensive care, from 3,994 on Saturday to 3,977 on Sunday.

The government reported that the change in the number of confirmed cases in Italy – the number of confirmed cases minus deaths and recoveries – was 2,972, slightly more than on Saturday.

READ ALSO: How Italy has changed the way it reports the daily coronavirus figures

“The curve has started its descent and the number of deaths has started to drop,” Italy's ISS national health institute director Silvio Brusaferro told reporters.

“If these data are confirmed [in the coming days], we will have to start thinking about phase two,” he said in reference to an easing of a month-long national lockdown.

Italy's second phase of the battle against a virus that has now officially killed 15,887 may be trickier than the first.

READ ALSO: 

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte decided to address Italy's biggest crisis in generations by sacrificing the economy for the benefit of public health.

Italy became the first Western democracy to voluntarily shut down almost all businesses and ban public gatherings – including simple walks in the park – on March 12.

The gamble appears to be paying off. But the hit to the Italian economy will be enormous. The country's big business lobby Confindustria estimates that this year's production will shrink by 6 percent if the lockdown remains in place until the end of May.

Confindustria believes that any additional week after that will chop another 0.75 percent off Italy's total output — the European Union's third-largest last year.

Conte's government is expected to announce new emergency support measures on Monday for small businesses and families that expand on a €25 billion programme unveiled last month.

READ ALSO: Solidarity food baskets hang from Naples balconies to help those in need


Photo: Carlo Hermann/AFP

The coming easing in Italy has not been tried by any other Western nation since the virus spread from China to Europe in February.

Italian health officials remain extremely cautious because they know that the death toll is falling almost certainly because most people are self-isolating.

Civil protection service chief Angelo Borrelli called Sunday's drop in reported deaths “good news”.

“But we should not let our guard down,” he warned.

Italian media on Sunday said Conte's government was preparing a five-point plan that would open up businesses in stages while keeping many social distancing measures in place for some time.

The Corriere della Sera daily said Italians would be asked to go to work with face masks and required to stay two metres apart in public at all times.

Anyone who shows the slightest Covid-19 symptoms must be immediately reported to the health authorities and isolated for two weeks.

Conte's government also intends to secure tens of thousands of certified blood test kits to see how many people have developed antibodies for the disease. Those with the antibodies might have immunity and be allowed to work.

READ ALSO: The Italian mayor fighting for mass virus blood testing

But Italy does not have any certified kits at the moment and when these will be available remains unknown. It is also unclear whether people with antibodies can still spread the disease.

Italy is also reportedly planning to build more coronavirus-specific hospitals across the country.

The government's final proposal involves using phone apps to “strengthen contact tracing” — a controversial measure opposed by privacy advocates that has been tried in countries such as South Korea and Israel.

Italy’s civil protection agency says that 21,815 people have so far recovered from the coronavirus.

This article has been edited to clarify the total number of new cases.

Member comments

  1. Why is the local now using this ridiculous new recording system? It was using the worldometers data up until now which is the accurate number. The true number of new cases is 4316. How are people to truly understand the situation if you report only 2972 of 4316 new cases. The situation is certainly improving but we haven’t drop from 6153 new cases in a day to 2972. People still need to take this just as serious and continuing to use this metric means that we will reach a point where new cases are being ignored because the rate of recovery is high promoting the disregard of the quarantine and social distancing too soon. I really disagree with the decision to this “adjusted” number.

  2. I agree with James completely. Even the figures on Worldometer are considered to be markedly under estimating the true number of cases and deaths. We need to continue vigilance for some time yet.

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HEALTH

Living in Italy: Five tips to help you survive the local pharmacy

From ear piercings to flu jabs, Italian ‘farmacie’ are among the most useful stores in the country, but they’re also very odd places. Here are our tips on getting through the pharmacy experience.

Living in Italy: Five tips to help you survive the local pharmacy

Italian pharmacies aren’t just stores selling prescription or over-the-counter medicines.

As a customer, you’ll find all sorts of natural remedies, basic health supplies and personal care items on their shelves. 

You’ll also be able to receive basic medical services (for instance, blood pressure checks, Covid tests and flu jabs) and some non-health-related ones (like getting your ears pierced!) in most branches. 

READ ALSO: Reader question: Can I still get the flu vaccine in Italy? 

But, while being extremely useful stores, Italian farmacie (pronunciation available here) are also peculiar places and their set of unwritten rules and solidified traditions may well throw off newcomers.. 

So here are five tips that might help you complete your first expeditions to your local pharmacy without making a fool of yourself.

1 – Decipher your doctor’s scribbles before your trip

Much like some of their foreign colleagues, Italian GPs have a penchant for writing prescriptions that no one else is actually able to read. 

We might never find out why doctors seem so intent on making ancient hieroglyphs fashionable again, but their calligraphic efforts will surely get in the way of you trying to buy whatever medicine you need to survive. 

To avoid hiccups, make sure you know exactly what you need to get. If in doubt, reach out to your GP to confirm.

Don’t rely on pharmacists being able to figure out your doctor’s handwriting because they often have no clue either.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How to make a doctor’s appointment in Italy 

Pharmacy in Codogno, near Milan

In most small towns and rural areas local pharmacies have very ‘thin’ opening hours. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

2 – Double-check the pharmacy’s opening times

If you’re from the UK or the US, you might be used to pharmacies being open from 8am to 10pm on weekdays and having slightly reduced opening times over the weekend. 

You can forget about that in Italy. In big cities, most pharmacies will shut no later than 8pm on weekdays and will be closed on either Saturdays or Sundays.

READ ALSO: Coughs, colds and flu: What to say and do if you fall sick in Italy 

As for small towns or villages, opening times will have a nice Middle Ages vibe to them, with local stores remaining shut on weekends and keeping their doors open from 9am to 12.30pm and then from 3.30pm to 7.30pm on weekdays. 

So always check your local pharmacy’s hours before leaving home and, should their times not be available online, call them up. An awkward phone conversation with the pharmacist is still preferable to a wasted trip.

3 – Get the ‘numerino

Some Italian pharmacies have a ticket-dispensing machine with the aim of regulating the queue – a concept which is still foreign to many across the country.

All customers are expected to get a numbered paper ticket (the famed ‘numerino’) from the above machine and wait for their number to be called to walk up to the pharmacist’s desk. 

Now, the law of the land categorically prohibits customers from getting within a five-metre radius of the desk without a numerino

Also, trying to break that rule may result in a number of disdainful sideways glances from local customers.

4 – You cannot escape the in-store conversations, so embrace them 

Pharmacies aren’t just stores. They’re a cornerstone of Italian life and locals do a good deal of socialising on the premises. 

After all, the waiting times are often a bit dispiriting, so how can you blame them for killing the time?

Small pharmacy in Italy

Pharmacies are an essential part of Italian life and culture. Photo by Marco SABADIN / AFP

You might think that locals won’t want to talk to you because you’re a foreigner or don’t know the language too well, but you’ll marvel at how chatty some are.

While chit-chat might not be your cup of tea, talking with locals might help you improve your Italian, so it’s worth a shot.

5 – “Vuoi scaricarlo?”

The pharmacist finally gets you what you need and you’re now thinking that your mission is over. Well, not yet.

Before charging you for the items in question, the pharmacist will ask you whether you’d like to ‘scaricarli’ (literally, ‘offload them’) or not, which, no matter how good your Italian is, will not make any sense to you.

What the pharmacist is actually asking you is whether you want to link the purchase to your codice fiscale (tax code). 

READ ALSO: Codice fiscale: How to get your Italian tax code (and why you need one)   

That’s because Italy offers residents a 19-percent discount on some health-related expenses, which can be claimed through one’s annual income declaration (dichiarazione dei redditi) by attaching the receipts of all the eligible payments.

Whether you want to scaricare or not, this is the last obstacle before you can make your way back home.

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