New cases of Covid-19 have increased sharply again in recent days. Health authorities reported 1,411 new cases on Thursday, similar to numbers not seen since early May when the country was still under lockdown.
Authorities also reported 490 new outbreaks, or clusters, for a total of 1,374 active outbreaks
This is compared to 1,077 active outbreaks last week, of which 281 were new.
Though the numbers are rising again, the profile of the average patient has changed in Italy, as in many other countries. Most of the new cases are asymptomatic, and the average age of those diagnosed has fallen again from 34 last week to just 29 years old this week.
The continuing rise in new infections in Italy over the past few weeks, health authorities say, is at least partly down to more proactive screening that has allowed them to identify cases sooner. This may also explain why so many of the cases are asymptomatic.
The number of tests being done has also increased – however, so has the percentage of swabs coming back positive.
Thanks to Italy’s contact tracing protocols, people who have come in contact with someone infected can also be isolated more swiftly, cutting off the chain of transmission.
Despite this, hundreds of new focolai ('hotspots') continue to emerge across Italy each week.
Where are the latest outbreaks?
While in the initial stage of the coronavirus crsis the majority of cases were seen in several northern italian regions, now health authorities say they have “detected a widespread transmission of the virus throughout the national territory.”
However, the latest data shows that some regions are still far more severely affected than others.
On Thursday, Lombardy was still the worst-affected region in terms of new cases, with 286 postitive swabs in the region within 24 hours.
There has been a lot of focus on Sardinia this week after reports of several outbreaks on the popular Italian holiday island during peak summer holiday season.
Some 500 guests were quarantined at a resort after a staff member tested positive, while health authorities traced some 60 cases to the island’s famed Billionaire nightclub, owned by former F1 boss Flavio Briatore – who is himself being treated for the virus in Milan.
Half of the new cases in Rome's Lazio region have been traced to holidaymakers returning from Sardinia, some of whom visited Billionaire.
Several outbreaks have been reported on the island of Sardinia recently. Photo: AFP
Cases have also been connected to people visiting nightclubs in the Lazio and Emilia-Romagna regions before the government ordered all discos to close in mid-August.
Meanwhile several outbreaks have been reported at care homes for the elderly this week, including 22 positive cases at a care home in Lombardy.
Where and how are people being infected?
In Thursday’s joint statement by the Italian Higher Institute of Health (ISS) and the Ministry of Health, experts noted that they were seeing “outbreaks of considerable size, often associated with recreational activities involving gatherings and violations of physical distancing rules, both domestically and abroad.”
“We are witnessing the subsequent importation of cases and a further local transmission when returning after holiday periods,” the statement read.
They said some 20 percent of the new cases could be linked to international travel.
Amid fears of a possible second wave, authorities insist the outbreaks can currently be kept under control.
Health authorities stressed “the need to respect quarantine and other recommended measures. otherwise, in the coming weeks, we could see a further increase in the number of cases at the national level”.
“Local services have so far managed to contain local transmission of the virus but, should the current trend continue, the responsiveness of these services could be severely tested.”