Coronavirus death toll in Italy tops 60,000

The death toll from Covid-19 has passed the 60,000 mark, according to official figures from the Italian government.

Coronavirus death toll in Italy tops 60,000
A priest blesses graves in Bergamo, Lombardy, the part of Italy hit hardest by the coronavirus outbreak. AFP
Restrictive measures aimed at stemming the spread of the virus have nonetheless eased in several regions as the rate of infection stabilised in many areas.
Italy, the first European country to be hit by the global pandemic, has now recorded 60,078 deaths from 1,728,878 infections in total, the health ministry reported on Sunday evening.
Despite steps the government has taken to curb infections and care for the sick, hundreds of people are still dying daily.
Italy saw a record 993 deaths on Thursday, the highest toll since the outbreak began in the first months of the year.
Italy is believed to be among the countries with the highest number of deaths among its population with 98 fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants.
Its mortality rate, or the ratio of deaths to infections, has been calculated at 3.47 percent. Only Britain has a higher rate in Europe, with 3.55 percent.
However, Italian health experts were quick to point out last month that the apparent lethality rate figure “means nothing” in Italy, because of the way it is calculated, and that it is difficult to compare Italy with most other European countries because of its unusual demographics.
The Italian government on Friday brought in a set of new rules aimed at stemming the spread of the viirus.
It included tougher restrictions on travel to and within Italy as the government fears a third wave of infections could be triggered by festive gatherings.
Italian Health Minister Roberto Speranza warned that “if we drop our guard, we run the risk of finding ourselves in January and February facing a new (infection) surge.
“And that we cannot allow,” he told SkyTG24 television.
He announced a ban on movements between regions from December 21 until January 6, including on visiting second homes.
There is also a ban on moving from one town to another for December 25 and 26 as well as on January 1.
A curfew from 10 pm until 5 am remains in place, lasting until 7am on New
Year's Day.
Ski slopes and mechanical lifts are to remain closed until January 7.

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Former Italian PM faces investigation over Covid response

Italian prime minister Giuseppe Conte is set to undergo a judicial inquiry over claims his government's response to the Covid-19 outbreak in early 2020 was too slow.

Former Italian PM faces investigation over Covid response

Prosecutors in Bergamo, the northern city that was one of the epicentres of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe, targeted Conte after wrapping up their three-year inquiry, according to media reports.

Conte, now president of the populist Five Star movement, was prime minister from 2018 to 2021 and oversaw the initial measures taken to halt the spread of what would become a global pandemic.

Investigating magistrates suspect that Conte and his government underestimated the contagiousness of Covid-19 even though available data showed that cases were spreading rapidly in Bergamo and the surrounding region.

They note that in early March 2020 the government did not create a “red zone” in two areas hit hardest by the outbreak, Nembro and Alzano Lombardo, even though security forces were ready to isolate the zone from the rest of the country.

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Red zones had already been decreed in late February for around a dozen other nearby municipalities including Codogno, the town where the initial Covid case was reportedly found.

Conte’s health minister Roberto Speranza as well as the president of the Lombardy region, Attilio Fontana, are also under investigation, the reports said.

Bergamo prosecutors allege that according to scientific experts, earlier quarantines could have saved thousands of lives.

Conte, quoted by Il Corriere della Sera and other media outlets, said he was “unworried” by the inquiry, saying his government had acted “with the utmost commitment and responsibility during one of the most difficult moments of our republic.”

READ ALSO: Italy’s constitutional court upholds Covid vaccine mandate as fines kick in

Similar cases have been lodged against officials elsewhere, alleging that authorities failed to act quickly enough against a virus that has killed an estimated 6.8 million people worldwide since early 2020.

In January, France’s top court threw out a case against former health minister Agnes Buzyn, a trained doctor, over her allegedly “endangering the lives of others” by initially playing down the severity of Covid-19.