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.
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.
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.
“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.