Roundup: Italy's virus data bode well after worsening for five straight weeks, experts urge caution

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, March 23, 2021
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ROME, March 22 (Xinhua) -- After five consecutive weeks of growth, Italy's coronavirus infection rate has started to retreat slightly as the country enters its second week of tightened health restrictions.

The Ministry of Health recorded 13,846 new infections between Sunday and Monday, down from more than 20,000 a day earlier. The daily death toll was 386, up from 300 a day earlier, while the number of patients in intensive care units grew by 62 over the previous 24 hours to 3,510.

The number of patients declared cured of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, surged to nearly 33,000 Monday, its highest one-day total in weeks and more than double the total over the last five days.

Monday marked the first time in more than a month that the number of cured individuals surpassed that of new infections, meaning the total number of active infections in the country dropped by more than 8,600, barely topping 563,000. That is far below the peak number of more than 800,000 in November.

La Repubblica newspaper, citing official figures, reported that the total number of new infections was 153,383 for the week ending Sunday, a 1.6 percent decrease compared to the previous week.

The newspaper said the decrease, which came after five straight weeks of climbing, could "represent the start of a more pronounced trend."

The report noted that most of Italy's population was in a "red zone," the most restrictive of the country's four color-coded categories. It also said that despite the overall decline, 12 of the country's 20 regions saw at least a mild increase in the infection rate. Positive trends in the most populated regions -- including Lombardy, the region that includes Milan, and the Lazio region, which includes Rome -- were the main catalysts behind the broader decline.

Still, the number of intensive-care patients was 621 higher than ten days ago, and 1,191 more than three weeks ago.

Massimo Galli, one of Italy's top infectious disease specialists, called the latest developments "promising," but told reporters he had his eye on bending the infection curve downward in time for summer.

"For the next few weeks, we still have to be patient and cautious," said Galli.

Minister of Health Roberto Speranza echoed those remarks, stating that the four-color scheme would be adjusted but would largely remain in place after April 6, when the current rules, which went into effect March 15, are set to expire.

He said the goal was not to end the restrictions quickly but rather to keep them in force until the warmer months. "I am optimistic we can ease restrictions in summer," Speranza said.

On Friday, the AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine re-joined those from Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech being used in the country, after a four-day halt amid concerns over potentially deadly side effects. The daily vaccine rate started to gain momentum again.

As of Monday, Italy had distributed at least one vaccine dose to 7.9 million people, with 2.5 million of them fully vaccinated after receiving two doses, information from data firm Statista showed.

As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in an increasing number of countries with already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.

Meanwhile, 264 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide -- 82 of them in clinical trials -- in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain, and the United States, according to the latest information released by the World Health Organization. Enditem

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