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HEALTH

Italy reports record number of recoveries as government looks at relaxing lockdown rules

Italian health officials on Friday said Italy has seen a record high number of recoveries, and a new low number of Covid-19 patients being treated in hospital.

Italy reports record number of recoveries as government looks at relaxing lockdown rules
The colours of the Italian flag were projected onto the Rialto bridge in Venice on April 16th as a sign of hope in this difficult and delicate moment for Italy. Photo: Andrea Pattaro/AFP

The number of people currently being treated for Covid-19 rose by only a few hundred for the first time since the outbreak began.

Figures from the civil protection service showed the number of those receiving hospital care or recovering at home under medical supervision rising by 355 to 106,962 on Friday.

But the figure outside the outbreak's Italian epicentre in Milan's northern region of Lombardy went up by just 11 cases.

It went up by 344 in Lombardy itself.

The number had been rising by at least 1,000 a day nationally for over a month.

“In absolute terms, we have had had the highest number of recoveries since the start of the crisis,” civil protection service chief Angelo Berrelli told reporters.

A doctor checks on a patient in the intensive care unit of the Casal Palocco hospital near Rome. Photo: AFPI

taly's official death toll still rose by another 575 fatalities Friday to 22,745 – the second-highest toll after the United States.

The number of new officially registered infections rose by 3,493 on Friday – about the same as it has been all week.

The generally improving picture prompted the civil protection service to announce that it was suspending daily briefings and moving to a twice-a-week format. New figures will still be issued daily.

“Phase two”

The Italian government is still debating how and when it should start lifting the national lockdown, which has left millions furloughed and unemployed.

The current restrictions are due to expire on May 3rd, and the government is planning to partially lift stay-at-home orders in regions where new cases have sharply dropped.

The government's public health council chief Franco Locatelli hinted Friday that restricted may be eased in regions south of Rome, which are less affected by the outbreak.

READ ALSO: When will it be possible to travel to Italy again?

“We have prevented the spread of contagion in southern regions. This is now a fact supported by (Friday's) figures,” Locatelli said.

But the scale to which businesses are allowed to open across the economically stronger north, much harder hit by the outbreak, will be determined by the number of deaths and recoveries reported over the coming days.

Italy is still digging though data from individual regions to determine the health and economic effects of its worst crisis since World War II.

READ ALSO: Venice slowly comes back to life under local 'soft lockdown' rules

Previously undisclosed figures from its public health institute revealed that nearly 17,000 medics have been infected with the virus since Italy's first Covid-19 death was recorded on February 21.

Several Italian doctors have expressed fears that infected health care workers may have been unwittingly spreading the disease to their patients in the early weeks of the outbreak.

Covid-19 has now killed 125 doctors in Italy, according to study released Thursday by the Fnomceo medical association.

Media reports on Friday said that at least 34 nurses have also died of the disease.

Italy's official death toll is thought to be underestimated.

Doctors now believe that Italy's real number of deaths could be double the official figure in some of the worst-hit provinces around Milan.

Photo: AFPI

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COVID-19

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

As the infection rate rises sharply across the country, Italian virologists are calling for concerts and festivals to be rescheduled.

Covid-19: Are Italian live events at risk of being postponed?

Italy has seen a large increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in recent days, so much so that a number of virologists across the country are now urging the government to postpone major live events in a bid to curb infections. 

According to a new report by Italy’s independent health watchdog, the Gimbe Foundation, 595,349 new cases were recorded in the week from June 29th to July 5th; a worrying 55 percent increase on the previous week. 

In the same time span, the country also registered a 32.8 percent rise in the number of hospitalised patients, which went from 6,035 to 8,003.  

The latest Covid wave, which is being driven by the highly contagious Omicron 5 variant, is a “real cause for concern”, especially in terms of a “potential patient overload”, said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation. 

As Italian cities prepare to host a packed calendar of concerts and festivals this summer, health experts are questioning whether such events should actually take place given the high risk of transmission associated with mass gatherings.

READ ALSO: What tourists in Italy need to know if they get Covid-19

“Rescheduling these types of events would be the best thing to do right now,” said Massimo Ciccozzi, Director of Epidemiology at Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome. 

The summer wave is expected to peak in mid-July but, Ciccozzi warns, the upcoming live events might “delay [the peak] until the end of July or even beyond” and extend the infection curve.

Antonello Maruotti, Professor of Statistics at LUMSA University of Rome, recently shared Ciccozzi’s concerns, saying that live events as big as Maneskin’s scheduled Rome concert are “definitely not a good idea”. 

The Italian rock band are slated to perform at the Circus Maximus on Saturday, July 9th but the expected turnout – over 70,000 fans are set to attend the event – has raised objections from an array of Italian doctors, with some warning that the concert might cause as many as 20,000 new cases.

If it were to materialise, the prospected scenario would significantly aggravate Lazio’s present medical predicament as there are currently over 186,000 Covid cases in the region (nearly 800 patients are receiving treatment in local hospitals). 

Italian rock band Maneskin performing in Turin

Italian rock band Maneskin are expected to perform at the Circus Maximus in Rome on Saturday, July 9th. Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

But, despite pleas to postpone the event, it is likely that Maneskin’s concert will take place as scheduled.

Alessandro Onorato, Rome’s Tourism Councillor, said that rescheduling is “out of question” and that “all recommendations from the local medical authorities will be adopted” with the help of the event’s organisers and staff on the ground.

At the time of writing, there is also no indication that the Italian government will consider postponing other major live events scheduled to take place in the coming weeks, though the situation is evolving rapidly and a U-turn on previous dispositions can’t be ruled out.

READ ALSO: At a glance: What are the Covid-19 rules in Italy now?

On this note, it is worth mentioning that Italy has now scrapped all of its former Covid measures except the requirement to wear FFP2 face masks on public transport (though not on planes) and in healthcare settings.

The use of face coverings is, however, still recommended in all crowded areas, including outdoors – exactly the point that leading Italian doctors are stressing in the hope that live events will not lead to large-scale infection.

Antonio Magi, President of Rome’s OMCEO (College of Doctors, Surgeons and Dentists), said: “Our advice is to wear FFP2 masks […] in high-risk situations.”

“I hope that young people will heed our recommendations and think about the health risks that their parents or grandparents might be exposed to after the event [they attend].”

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