The spread of Covid-19 is now accelerating in Italy and the nation's health services are starting to feel the strain, the country's Higher Health Institute said on Friday in its weekly monitoring report.
The report, which refers to the September 28-October 4 period, said that there was an “acceleration” in the “deterioration” of the epidemic.
The daily number of positive cases reached a new post-lockdown high of 5,327 on Friday, health authorities said.
The contagion curve continued to rise sharply after Italy recorded 4,458 new cases within 24 hours on Thursday. Wednesday's figure was 3,600
“We're under extreme pressure,” the World Health Organization's Italian government adviser Walter Ricciardi said, warning that spaces in Covid-19 hospitals were running out in the worst-hit regions.
On Friday, Italy also recorded:
- 28 new deaths
- A further 29 patients admitted to intensive care, for a total of 387
- The number of coronavirus patients hospitalised (not in ICU) rose by 161 to 4,086
Health authorities also recorded a high number of tests on Friday, with 129,471 swabs taken in the past 24 hours.
Italy's new infections are still well behind Britain, France and Spain, which are registering between 12,000 and 19,000 cases in 24 hours.
But Ricciardi said the rise in cases could reach those levels in Italy just as winter begins and common influenza strikes.
Almost 1,000 of the new cases, 983, were registered in Lombardy, which remains the worst-hit region.
While northern regions had previously suffered the highest numbers of cases and deaths, the recent surge in cases has affected most parts of the country.
Campania had 769 cases on Friday, Veneto 595 and Tuscany 483.
Campania has been consistently reporting some of the highest numbers of new cases in recent days.
On Friday, regional governor Vincenzo De Luca said in a Facebook Live broadcast on Friday that a “daily increase of 800 new positives means we close everything.”
Data from health authorities on Friday showed that most of the region’s cases were concentrated in Naples, raising concerns that the city may be put under restrictions.
On Thursday, the Latina province south of Rome was put under local lockdown measures for 14 days after a spike in cases in the area.
The national government has long aimed to prevent major outbreaks in the the south and centre-south of the country, where hospitals would be expected to struggle.as they are generally not as well-funded as those in the weathier north.
The Italian Association of Hospital Anaesthesiologists said Friday that hospitals in the south, where infrastructure is weaker, were not ready for an
escalating crisis, despite efforts made to boost beds and staff numbers.
While Italy's prime minister said this week he does not “see a new national lockdown on the horizon”, local measures are widely expected to be enforced in various parts of Italy in the coming weeks in response to sharp spikes in cases in many regions.
Italian regional authorities can declare “red zones” or enforce local lockdowns under special powers granted due to the country's state of emergency, which was extended on Wednesday and will now stay in place until January 21st, 2021 – a year since it was first introduced.
An update to existing emergency measures, which comes into force on Thursday, makes wearing a mask obligatory whenever you leave your home, at all times of the day and in all parts of the country.
The government has also raised the fines for refusing to wear a mask to between €400 and €1,000, with police patrols deployed to check that people are complying. Until now the maximum penalty was €400, though some regions had introduced higher fines locally.
Italy's government was also expected to sign off on a wider range of new rules on Wednesday under a new emergency decree, but that has now been postponed and current rules will stay in place until October 15th.
You can follow all of The Local's latest updates on the coronavirus situation in Italy here.