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More people died in Italy in 2020 than in any year since World War II

Italy suffered its highest number of deaths since World War II last year due to the coronavirus pandemic with over 100,000 deaths more than average, according to new figures released on Friday.

More people died in Italy in 2020 than in any year since World War II
A cemetery in Bergamo, one of Italy's worst-hit regions. Photo: Miguel Medina/AFP

“The demographic picture of our country has undergone a profound change because of the impact of Covid-19 deaths,” national statistic agency Istat said in a new report.

“In 2020, total deaths reached 746,146, the highest number ever recorded since World War II, with an increase on the 2015-2019 average of more than 100,000 (+ 15.6 percent).”

READ ALSO: ‘The pain of an entire nation’: Italy marks first day of remembrance for Covid-19 dead

Daily updated health ministry data on the number of people with Covid-19 who have died since the pandemic put the toll at 74,000 by December 31st 2020. Istat did not account for the discrepancy between the two figures.

The total number of Covid-19-related deaths has now reached more than 100,0000 as Italy — the first European country to face the full force of the pandemic 13 months ago — faces a fresh wave of infections.

The Istat figures show Italy’s northern regions, which were hit first and hardest, have suffered the biggest increases in so-called excess deaths.

Alongside these grim figures came a record low in the number of births — at 404,104, down 3.8 percent from 2019 — accelerating a trend towards a declining population.

READ ALSO: Twelve statistics that show how the pandemic has hit Italy’s quality of life

The resident population of Italy fell by around 384,000 in 2020 compared to the previous year, “as if a big city like Florence had disappeared”, wrote Istat. As of December 31st 2020, Italy’s population was 59,257,566, down 0.6 percent over 12 months.

“The new record low number of births (404,000) and the high number of deaths (746,000), never experienced since the Second World War, accelerate the negative natural dynamic that characterises our country,” Istat said.

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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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