Covid-19: ‘We have entered the fourth wave’, says Italy’s watchdog

Covid-related deaths and new infections have risen so much in the past seven days that Italy's independent think tank has confirmed the country has now entered a fourth wave of the coronavirus.

Covid-19: 'We have entered the fourth wave', says Italy's watchdog

Cases, admissions and deaths due to Covid-19 are increasing again, according to a new report published on Thursday by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the GIMBE Foundation.

“The number of new weekly cases continues to rise, but they are underestimated due to insufficient testing and the failure to resume contact tracing,” said Nino Cartabellotta, the GIMBE President.

“The virus is circulating more than is documented by the new cases identified – we have in fact entered the fourth wave,” he added.

READ ALSO: Italy says 99 percent of Covid deaths weren’t fully vaccinated

After 15 weeks of decline, deaths have started to increase once more, as the number has increased by 46 percent over the past seven days, rising to 111 from 76 of the previous week.

That makes an average of 16 deaths per day compared to 11 in the week before.

The independent monitoring report also revealed a hike in new cases of 65 percent over the previous week, increasing to 31,963 compared to 19,390.

The study recorded a 42.9 percent increase in people in isolation, a 34.9 percent increase in admissions with symptoms and a 14.5 percent increase in intensive care.

(Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP)

During the week of July 21st – 27th, compared with the previous week, there was a percentage increase in the number of new cases in all the regions except Molise, the findings showed.

The regions showing the greatest increase in new cases was Friuli Venezia Giulia (+202 percent), Valle D’Aosta (+175 percent) and Tuscany (+128 percent).

And in 40 provinces, the incidence exceeded 50 cases per 100,000 inhabitants – that was previously the threshold in which a region would automatically move into the low-moderate risk ‘yellow zone’.

Three provinces recorded more than 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants: Caltanissetta in Sicily (272), Cagliari in Sardinia (257) and Ragusa in Sicily (193).

Hospital admissions rose slightly too, revealing the effects of the Delta variant.

“After the first signs of recovery recorded last week, there is confirmation of a slight increase in admissions, which document the hospital impact of increased viral circulation,” said Renata Gili, head of Health Services Research at the GIMBE.

Covid-19: Italy says whole population will be vaccinated by end of September

The number of beds occupied by Covid patients has risen from 1,088 on July 16th to 1,611 on July 27th.

Intensive care also noted an increase, as “daily admissions to intensive care continue to grow slowly,” according to  Marco Mosti, Operational Director of the GIMBE Foundation.

The figure rose from 151 on July 14th to 189 on July 27th, although the percentages of hospital occupancy on a national level remain very low – at 3 percent for general admissions and 2 percent for intensive care.

(Photo by Marco Bertorello / AFP)

On the question of vaccines, the study noted that as of Wednesday there were some 69,253,968 doses delivered.

A peak of deliveries was recorded between June 28th and July 4th but the weekly supplies of around 2.6 million doses dropped to 2.5 million last week.

“The timing of the delivery of more than 45 million doses planned for the third quarter remains uncertain, and as in the previous two quarters, they could be concentrated at the end of September,” stated Cartabellotta.

He noted that an irregular delivery schedule “is a major obstacle to planning the vaccination campaign”.

This could thwart government predictions that the whole of Italy will be fully vaccinated by the end of September, following news of an extra million Pfizer doses, scheduled to arrive in Italy in the middle of August.

More than 58 percent of the Italian population over 12 years old are now vaccinated, according to the latest government figures, making up some 31.4 million people.

AstraZeneca is used almost exclusively for booster shots, the report found.

The number of single shot Johnson & Johnson is now “meagre” – in the last week just under 4,000 doses were administered per day compared to over 944,000 “in the fridge”.

Among the over 60s, 88.5 percent have received at least the first dose of vaccine, with a very slight national weekly increase (+0.5 percent).

However, there are stark regional differences with Puglia reaching 93.6 percent, while Sicily is behind at 80.1 percent.

On average, around one in ten (11.5 percent) of over-60s in Italy are yet to receive a single dose.

At the other end of the scale, the limited availability of mRNA vaccines, which includes the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, “hinders the possibility of a massive vaccination of the under-60s”, according to the study.

READ ALSO: Italy expects to vaccinate 60 percent of over-12s by end of July

Of the more than 4.5 million people between 12 and 19 years old, one in six (14.7 percent), or some 670,000 have completed the vaccination cycle and almost 765,000 (16.8 percent) have only received the first dose, the findings showed.

Therefore, in this age group, over two thirds (68.5 percent), are still totally uncovered.

There are significant regional differences too, ranging from 85.9 percent unvaccinated in Umbria to 61.4 percent in Abruzzo.

The report noted that if the priority is getting everyone back to school in 100 percent presence – with the government considering making vaccinations mandatory for teachers, then “focusing solely on vaccination coverage is risky”.

No vaccine in Italy is currently available for children under 12.

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Italy pushes for more vaccinations as Covid incidence rate rises sharply

Italy’s health authorities reported another worsening of the health situation over the past week, with case incidence numbers rising further.

The city of Trieste in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region is currently one of the areas with the highest Covid incidence rates in Italy.
The city of Trieste in the Friuli Venezia Giulia region is currently one of the areas with the highest Covid incidence rates in Italy. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

The new coronavirus data monitoring report from Italy’s health ministry and the Higher Health Institute (ISS) released on Friday showed that  the nationwide incidence of coronavirus cases had risen to 78 per 100,000 inhabitants in the week ended November 11th, up from 53 in the week ended November 4th 

The new figures also show that the country’s Rt rose to 1.21 between October 20th and November 2nd, up from 1.15 the week before.

An Rt number above 1 indicates that the epidemic is in a phase of expansion.

READ ALSO: Is Italy likely to bring back Covid restrictions this Christmas?

While the number of residents taking rapid antigen tests has spiked in recent weeks following a mandate for all workers produce an Italian health certificate or ‘green pass’ to access their workplace, the Rt is thought to be unaffected, as only symptomatic cases and hospitalisations are taken into account in calculating the number, reports news agency Ansa.

Green passes are available to everyone who is vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid-19, but can also be obtained by getting a negative test. The requirement to produce a green pass has been in place for all workers in Italy since October 15th.

The occupancy of hospital beds by Covid patients has also risen marginally in the last couple of weeks, to 6.1 percent general ward and 4.4 percent intensive care occupancy as of November 11th, up from 5.3 percent general ward occupancy on October 28th and 4 percent ICU occupancy on November 4th.

The occupancy rates currently remain below those needed to trigger an alert that would require a given Italian region to return from the least-restricted ‘white zone’ to the more restricted ‘yellow zone’ rules.

READ ALSO: Italy’s fourth Covid wave ‘can be reduced’, says health expert


Italy’s government has said a region must face increased restrictions when Covid patient occupancy of ICU beds reaches 10 percent and occupancy of general hospital wards reaches 15 percent; and when case incidence rates are at 50 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Friuli Venezia Giulia is currently considered at high risk of being returned to yellow zone rules, while 20 other regions and autonomous provinces are at moderate risk, reports Ansa. Calabria is the only region classed as low risk.

With millions of Italian residents yet to receive a first dose of the coronavirus vaccine, Italy’s politicians and health experts say that more coverage is needed to keep the numbers down.

To stop the curve from rising further “we need to increase first vaccinations among those who have not had it,” said Franco Locatelli, head of the Italian government’s Scientific Technical Committee (CTS), at a press conference last Friday, adding that medical personnel and the elderly also needed to get their boosters to prevent immunity from waning. 

The health ministry now plans to roll out more booster shots as well as aiming to have 90 percent of the eligible population vaccinated.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza said on Wednesday that third doses will be extended to those aged between 40-59 from December 1st.

READ ALSO: How to get a Covid-19 vaccine booster shot in Italy

“We started with the immuno-compromised, the frail, health workers, over 60s and those who had J&J who can have booster shots after six months,” Speranza said in answer to a question in Parliament, news agency Ansa reports.

He said administering more booster shots was “absolutely strategic for our vaccine campaign”.

Health authorities are reportedly aiming to start offering the booster to all age groups from early 2022.