LATEST: Italy urges public to stay home over Easter as intensive care numbers continue to drop

LATEST: Italy urges public to stay home over Easter as intensive care numbers continue to drop
A masked man walks in front of a closed church in Calabria on Wednesday. Photo: AFP
Coronavirus in Italy has claimed another 542 lives, it was reported Wednesday, but the number of patients in intensive care fell for the fifth consecutive day.

There were 542 new fatalities reported on Wednesday. In total, 17,669 lives have now been lost to the virus in Italy.

The highest daily reported death toll was 969 on March 27.

There are still 3,693 patients in intensive care, but the total number of patients in critical conditions fell for the fifth consecutive day.

A total of 3,836 new cases confirmed on Wednesday, higher than yesterday's  3.039, though overall the number of new cases has been rising more slowly.

As of Wednesday, there have now been 139,422  cases in total since the outbreak began, according to official figures, including the deceased and recovered patients.

ANALYSIS: How and when will Italy's lockdown end?

There have now been almost 24,500 recoveries in Italy, the data shows.

Photo: AFP

 
While fewer new deaths and cases are being reported, the numbers remain high and officials have repeatedly warned the public not to let their guard down and to continue to follow quarantine rules.

Leading Italian health expert Nino Cartabellotta said on Wednesday that for potentially looser measures to be implemented under “phase two” of quarantine, the increase in new cases would need to drop to below one percent.

Wednesday's increase in cases was 2.8 percent.

 
“The health and economic effects of a new rising curve would be disastrous,” he said.

Police in Italy are preparing to tighten controls over the Easter weekend. amid dears that the slowing rate of infections and warm weather will tempt Italians to flout the rules.

Cities includng Milan will increase the number of roadblocks in place this weekend, enforcing rules preventing people from visiting relatives out of town or spending the Easter holiday at their second home.

Health officials warned this week that the outbreak appears to have peaked in some areas only because of the various closures and bans, which they insist must remain in place – perhaps until a vaccine is developed or some reliable tests can show who has immunity against the new disease.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is now consulting the government's scientific committee this week about ways to safely end the lockdown, which has now been in place for almost a month.

The government is now planning to implement “phase two” of lockdown measures, described as an intermediary period between the current strict lockdown and “phase three”, during which the country will begin to return to normality.

READ ALSO: 'A summer without travel': How long will Italy's coronavirus lockdown 'phase two' last?

Not much is known yet about official plans for phase two and three, but the government is looking at the possibility of making changes from the end of the current lockdown period, on April 13.

While those keen to reopen businesses argue that the country should loosen measures from the beginning of May, health authorities warn that some measures could remain in place until the end of the year.


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