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COVID-19 STATS

Italy records highest-ever daily number of Covid cases amid Omicron wave

Italy saw a record 44,595 coronavirus infections in 24 hours on Thursday, as the government prepares to announce tighter health measures to come into force over the festive period.

People queue for coronavirus tests outside a pharmacy in Rome.
Italy is set to announce further health measures intended to contain a new wave of contagion fuelled by the Omicron virus variant. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

Italian health ministry data released on Thursday showed the highest daily number of infections seen in the country since the start of the pandemic,

 A record 44.595 new coronavirus cases were confirmed in the past 24 hours –  a sharp increase from the 36,293 reported on Wednesday.

The previous record daily number of infections was 40,902, recorded on November 13th, 2020.

READ ALSO: What will change under Italy’s new Covid decree?

The figure can be partly explained by a large increase in the number of tests carried out in the last 24 hours: more than 901,000, compared to 779,000 on Wednesday.

The test positivity rate was up to 4.9 percent, from 4.6 percent the day before.

There were 168 deaths from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, while on November 13th last year the figure was 550, noted Italian news agency Ansa.

Hospitalisation figures are also lower by comparison today – though the numbers of Covid patients in both intensive care and other hospital wards continue to rise daily.

There are 1,023 Covid patients in Italy’s ICU units (compared to 3,230 last November) and 8,722 in other wards (compared to 30,914).

Some 430,029 people in Italy are currently positive, 27,300 more than yesterday, health ministry data showed,

The Lombardy region, which has been the worst-affected part of Italy since the start of the pandemic, saw its own record of 12,955 confirmed cases on Thursday.

However the region, like most others in Italy, remains a low-risk ‘white’ zone with minimal health measures in place.

The Omicron variant is known to be behind 28 percent of the infections recorded in Italy, or more than one in four, Italy’s Higher Health Institute (ISS) said earlier on Thursday.

The Italian government is meeting on Thursday evening to agree on tighter health measures intended to stem the latest Covid wave.

A new decree is expected to focus mainly on tightening the rules on wearing masks and using Italy’s ‘green pass’ Covid health certificate, and also on extending the country’s current vaccine mandate to more groups, with Draghi stressing on Wednesday that “vaccines remain the best weapon we have against the virus”.

For more information about the current Covid-19 situation in Italy please see the Italian health ministry’s website (available in English).

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COVID-19 STATS

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.

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