Italy records highest number of Covid cases in over a year

Italian authorities registered a spike of more than 30,000 Covid cases on Tuesday, pushed up by soaring infections among children according to the latest health data.

Italy has hit its highest number of Covid infections in 13 months.
Italy has hit its highest number of Covid infections in 13 months. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

The fourth wave continues to rise in Italy, with 30,798 positive Covid tests detected on Tuesday according to the latest data from the health ministry.

Italy hasn’t seen an excess of 30,000 registered cases in one day for 13 months – since November 2020 – while Tuesday’s figures mark a sharp rise in cases even from the day before, when health officials recorded 16,213 cases.

READ ALSO: Is Italy planning to bring in new Covid restrictions over Christmas?

One cause for the surge in cases is the rising number of infections among children – those with the highest weekly incidence rates per 100,000 inhabitants are the paediatric age group, according to the latest data from Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS).

That covers the ages of 0-19 years, but higher case numbers have been recorded in primary school age children specifically – those aged between 0-9 years.

In response, the ISS has again urged people to get vaccinated, those aged five to 11 years old included, who have been eligible to get a dose since last week.

“Increased vaccination coverage, in all age groups, including five-11 years, completion of vaccination cycles and maintenance of a high level of vaccination coverage are essential,” reads the latest report.

Italy has made immunisation against Covid obligatory for some groups and extended its mandatory vaccine requirement to teachers, police and rescue workers last week.

EXPLAINED: Who does Italy’s new Covid vaccine mandate apply to?

The government is considering expanding compulsory vaccination to even more categories, as not only are cases rising but also the death count is too – 153 Covid-related deaths were recorded on Tuesday compared to 137 on Monday.

Asked how the government plans to handle the current wave, Prime Minister Mario Draghi said: “The arrival of the winter season and the spread of the Omicron variant oblige us to be very cautious in managing the coming months,” reported news agency Ansa.

This is “the highest figure so far in this fourth wave”, reported Rai news.

The last time there was a higher number of deaths was on May 27th this year, when there were 171.

Pressure on hospitals continues, as the number of hospitalisations related to Covid patients has also increased again. Admissions to intensive care units rose by 25 to 96, and have exceeded the 1,000 mark – there are 1,012 people in intensive care, a figure not seen since the end of May.

Ordinary hospitalisations increased by 280, bringing the total to 8,381 general Covid admissions.

The higher figures also relate to a boom in the number of tests – 851,865 were carried out on Tuesday, marking an increase of 514,000 more than Monday. With that, the positivity rate dropped from 4.8 percent to 3.6 percent.

Some 135,931 people in Italy have died from Covid since the pandemic began, with a total of 5,436,143 cases recorded.


MAP: Where are Covid infection rates rising fastest in Italy?

Covid numbers throughout Italy have risen in recent weeks, with the regions of Lombardy and Veneto reporting particularly high infection rates. We look at the latest stats and explore what they mean.

MAP: Where are Covid infection rates rising fastest in Italy?

What’s the overall picture?

Italy’s Covid infection rate continues to rise, although at a slower rate this week.

The health ministry recorded 58,360 new cases in the past 24 hours on Tuesday night, down from the 65,925 seen last Tuesday, which was the peak of the autumn wave so far.

Some 329,569 tests were recorded in 24 hours, with the test positivity rate rising from 16 to 17.7 percent in a week.

Meanwhile the numbers of recorded hospitalisations and fatalities also continue to rise.

Infection rates have been rising in Italy since the start of October. Health experts said this increase was expected after the mass return to work and school in September after the summer holidays.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the situation is not the same across the country. Regions are reporting significant variations in infection rates.

Which regions are worst affected?

Analysis of official data this week showed that the sharpest increases over the past two weeks in percentage terms were in Valle d’Aosta, Emilia Romagna, and Sardinia

However the highest numbers of cases overall were in the most populous of Italy’s northern regions, as has been the case since the start of the pandemic.

Numbers are much lower in southern regions, though in some cases are high in percentage terms relative to the population.

Italy is currently recording around 40,000 new Covid cases per day, around 7,700 of which are in the region of Lombardy, around Milan, and some 5,000 in Veneto, of which Venice is the capital.

Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany follow, as the map below shows.

Veneto has the higher rate of cases per 100,000 people, at 104, while Lombardy’s rate stands at 79.

The region with the highest number of cases per 100,000 people overall was neighbouring Trentino-Alto-Adige, with 131, which represents 1,405 new daily cases on average.

In percentage terms over the past two weeks, cases in Veneto rose by +63 percent, in Lombardy +84 percent, and Trentino-Alto-Adige +68.

The small region of Valle d’Aosta recorded the highest percentage increase in cases, at +186, which amounts to around 118 new infections per day.

In the same time frame, the sparsely populated southern region of Basilicata had the smallest increase at +29 percent, followed by Abruzzo with +40.

The graph below shows the relationship between cases per 100,000 inhabitants and the percentage increase in cases.

The positioning of the regions are indicative of the incidence rate per 100,000 over the past two weeks, shown on the horizontal axis, and the percentage increase in cases in the past week.

What do the rising numbers mean for Italy?

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the number of serious cases resulting in hospitalisations, intensive care referrals, and deaths has risen a couple of weeks after the increase in ne

Many medical experts have said that, with more than 90 percent of the Italian population vaccinated, they expect most people to experience mild cases of Covid this autumn and winter.

The main concern related to rising Covid numbers is that rising infection rates will mean staff shortages in hospitals and other critical services.

People still have to isolate for at least five days or a maximum of 14 days in Italy if they get a positive test result.

At the time of writing, Italy is days away from forming a new government following elections last month and a new health minister could mean a different approach to managing the pandemic.

It’s not known whether the new Italian government will consider bringing back any health restrictions if case numbers continue to rise.

However, the far-right Brothers of Italy party, which won elections on September 25th, said this week it is still against the reintroduction of Italy’s green pass health certificate or any vaccination requirements.

Under the outgoing government, the most recent updates from the health ministry confirmed that it continues to monitor the situation and advised those in vulnerable groups, including the over-60s, to get a booster jab this winter.

Find a guide to booking a Covid-19 booster jab in each region of Italy here.

You can follow The Local’s news updates on the Covid-19 situation in Italy here.