Italian COVID-19 cases fall as Rome grapples with easing lockdown

Italy is trying to work out how to get people back to work when it begins lifting restrictions next month.

Coronavirus patient treated at home in Italy - Reuters
Italian doctors have begun treating patients at home, as the spread of coronavirus continues [Flavio Lo Scalzo/Reuters]

Deaths from the coronavirus epidemic in Italy climbed by 464 on Thursday, against 437 the day before, the Civil Protection Agency said, but the daily tally of new infections declined to 2,646 from 3,370 on Wednesday.

The total official death toll since the outbreak emerged on February 21 now stands at 25,549, the agency said, the second-highest in the world after that of the United States.

The number of confirmed cases was 189,973, the third-highest global tally behind those of the United States and Spain.

People registered as currently carrying the illness fell to 106,848 from 107,699 on Wednesday, a fourth consecutive daily decline.

There were 2,267 people in intensive care on Thursday against 2,384 on Wednesday, maintaining a long-running decline. Of those originally infected, 57,576 were declared recovered against 54,543 a day earlier.

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For the first time, the civil protection unit published data on how many people had been tested for the virus so far in Italy, putting the number at 1.053 million from a population of around 60 million.

The agency had previously only issued data on the number of swabs carried out. This is a much higher figure – 1.58 million until Thursday – because many people are tested two or three times.

More than 2.64 million people have been reported to be infected by the coronavirus globally, and 184,910 have died, according to a Reuters tally. Infections have been reported in more than 210 countries and territories since the first cases were identified in China in December 2019.

Legal action?

A Facebook group set up by the son of a man who died in Bergamo, one of the towns hardest hit by the virus in Italy, has attracted more than 46,000 members demanding criminal prosecution of any officials found responsible for worsening the spread of the outbreak.

NOI Denunceremo members have also called for investigations into whether campaigns to keep bars and shops open had contributed to the scale of the pandemic.

Prosecutors in the Lombardy region have also opened probes into whether officials were criminally negligent and have discussed multiple manslaughter charges, the Guardian has reported.

Doctors’ unions have also said they are considering legal action over the deaths of more than 140 medical personnel, due, they say, to a lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). 

All roads lead to Rome

Italian authorities, companies and workers’ unions are meanwhile grappling with a crucial aspect of getting people back to work as they prepare to gradually lift a nationwide lockdown from May 4 – transport infrastructure.

Some 2.7 million people are expected to return to work on that day, and they will be encouraged to use their own car, scooter or bicycle, according to a union official who took part in a meeting with the government on Wednesday evening.

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But 15 percent of those workers are likely to use public transport, the source quoted Vittorio Colao, a former Vodafone boss who now chairs a group of experts advising the government on how to ease restrictions, as telling the meeting.

Colao was not immediately available for comment.

The fear that those returning to work may fall sick or infect others is a top concern.

To avoid that, authorities are likely to insist that people respect social distancing rules on their way to work as well as at the workplace.

Given that Italy is the first big Western economy to emerge from almost two months of deep lockdown, other countries still in hibernation will be watching closely to see what happens.

Source: News Agencies