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COVID-19 STATS

‘The fourth wave is contained’: Italy reports falling Covid infection rates for a second week

Italian health experts say Italy's Covid-19 fourth wave has been contained after the infection rate dropped sharply over the past two weeks.

'The fourth wave is contained': Italy reports falling Covid infection rates for a second week
Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

“The curve in Italy has remained contained thanks to vaccinations,” stated Silvio Brusaferro, president of Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS), at a press conference announcing the latest official data on Friday afternoon.

Health Ministry Director of Prevention Gianni Rezza described the latest findings as  “comforting” and said the health situation across Italy was “quite positive”.

The head of Italy’s evidence-based medicine foundation Gimbe agreed that the data showed the fourth wave of contagion in the country had been contained.

“The gradual increase in vaccination coverage and individuals’ adherence to correct behaviour has made it possible to contain the fourth wave, and the new cases and hospitalizations have finally begun to decline”, wrote Dr Nino Cartabellotta in Gimbe’s latest monitoring report published on Thursday.

READ ALSO: Almost all hospitalised Covid-19 patients in Italy are unvaccinated, says health watchdog

However, Cartabellotta warned that the downward trend may not last, adding: “with autumn upon us and the reopening of schools for 9.4 million people, in addition to the under 12s who have not yet received even one dose of the vaccine, there is a risk of a resumption of the circulation of the virus and an increase in hospitalizations, with consequent limitations in assistance to non-Covid-19 patients “

The latest official data shows that the country’s Rt number fell to 0.85 in the fourteen days between August 25th and September 7th, from 0.92 the preceding week.

Rt, the effective reproduction number, is the average number of people that one infected person will pass on a virus to – so an Rt of below one means that an infection rate is decreasing.

The health ministry’s report also said that the average number of new cases across Italy was down to 54 per 100,000 inhabitants in the week of September 10th-16th, compared to 64 the previous week.

The data from the past week also showed that the numbers of new Covid patient admissions to both intensive care and hospital wards had also continued to decline overall.

Despite having the highest incidence of Covid in the country, Sicily’s case rate has actually decreased from 148.7 per 100,000 inhabitants last week and 190.4 per 100,000 between August 27th and September 2nd.

The three areas of the country with the highest infection rates are Sicily, Calabria and the autonomous province of Bolzano, with Sicily showing an incidence of 109.1 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants, Bolzano 90.5, and Calabria 84.8.

Calabria risks joining Sicily in the ‘yellow’ zone, the second of Italy’s four-tier Covid risk zones, according to Italian media reports.

Yellow zone restrictions require that masks are worn in all public spaces, including outdoors, and that restaurants may only seat a maximum of four people per table unless the group is cohabiting.

There is no evening curfew, and travel in and out of yellow zones is not restricted.

READ ALSO: Yellow zone: Which Italian regions could face new Covid restrictions in September?

Gianluca CHININEA / AFP

Currently all of Italy’s regions besides Sicily are classed as low-risk ‘white zones’, with the lowest level of restrictions.

Bolzano, the autonomous province of Trento, and the regions of Abruzzo and Molise are now classified as moderate-risk zones, while Italy’s 17 remaining regions and autonomous provinces remain low-risk, the health ministry report states.

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COVID-19 STATS

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

Photo: JEFF PACHOUD/AFP

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.

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