ITALY may be fighting back in the battle against coronavirus as the nation’s death toll slowed for the second day in a row, offering renewed hope.
Data revealed a drop in the rate of deaths and new infections with the number of deaths in the world’s worst-affected country rising by 602 on Monday, the smallest increase for four days.
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Patients infected with COVID19 are attended to by doctors at Cremona Hospital Intensive Care in ItalyCredit: Alamy Live News A doctor on the ward of a hospital treating the most serious patients infected with COVID19Credit: Alamy Live News
Italy’s Civil Protection Agency showed 4,789 new cases on Monday, nearly 700 fewer than the day-to-day increase of 5,560 new cases reported from a day earlier.
The number of deaths followed a similar trend with 602 virus-related deaths registered on Monday compared to 651 on Sunday and 793 on Saturday.
The total number of fatalities from the month-old contagion currently stands at 6,077, while confirmed cases total 63,927.
Although fatalities have increased by 4,789 over the past 24 hours – it has been the smallest rise for five days.
The drop in the rate of deaths and new infections indicates that the curve may be finally starting to flatten out, two weeks after the entire country was placed into lockdown.
DROP IN DEATH RATE
Seeing the day-to-day figures for new cases and deaths go down is a sign for some that the national lockdown is working.
Since February, Italy had been following an exponential growth curve with cases and deaths roughly doubling every three days.
The recent data offers the first evidence that lockdown measures are helping to ‘flatten the curve’ and ease pressure on medical services, allowing doctors to better treat patients and helping to lower the death rate.
But health authorities have cautioned that it will be a few more days before they will know if Italy is at the beginning of a positive trend.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza cautioned: “These are crucial days. Woe to whoever lets down the guard.
“Now more than ever, the commitment of everyone is needed.”
These are crucial days. Woe to whoever lets down the guard.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza
A top national health official, Silvio Brusaferro, resisted being too optimistic, saying that the improvements registered Monday were due to actions taken at the beginning of the month, not in recent days.
“We need more consecutive results to confirm the trend, to be more certain that we are in a favourable situation”, Brusaferro said.
“I don’t feel like taking one side or the other to confirm that it is there or not. We can take note of what we see today.”
UK FOLLOWS SUIT
The two-week gap between the start of Italy’s nationwide lockdown and the slowdown in deaths and infections is significant, because analysts have said this is how long it takes social isolation measures to show up in the data.
Italy’s current lockdown measures mean that people cannot leave their homes except for work, medical reasons or emergencies.
Analysts have warned that the UK – with 336 deaths – is exactly where Italy was a fortnight ago.
On Monday, the UK followed suit and Boris Johnson ordered the whole country to stay at home from Monday.
THIRD WEEK OF LOCKDOWN
Italy begins its third week under a nationwide lockdown and the health system is struggling under the weight of the world’s largest COVID-19 outbreak outside of China.
A government decree that took effect March 3 prohibits people from leaving their homes except to go to work, to shop for food or other necessities, to exercise or walk dogs for brief periods, or to perform essential tasks like caring for an elderly relative.
In the Lombardy region, where the outbreak began, there are even more stringent restrictions.
In Milan, the capital of Lombardy, which is by far Italys worst-hit region, regional health officials declared themselves moderately optimistic after day-to-day increases of both positive test results and of hospitalisations of new patients with COVID-19 were smaller.
But they expressed renewed worry about the urgent need for additional intensive care beds.
Lombardy health commissioner Giulio Gallera said Monday that the number of cases grew to 29,761 , a day-to-day increase of 1,555 as opposed to the one-day jump of 3,200 recorded Saturday.
The cities of Bergamo and Milan both showed signs of improvement, but the number of cases jumped significantly in Brescia, another hard-hit Lombardy city which registered 588 new cases Monday.
Maybe this is the first positive day of this very difficult month,” Gallera said.
“It is not time to relax. We need to be even more coherent.”
The northern region requisitioned a hotel with 300 rooms for people who need to self-quarantine and are unable to properly distance themselves from family members at home.
Lombardy’s governor signed an ordinance on Saturday requiring all guests to leave hotels within 72 hours to free up the accommodations for possible use in public health emergency.
HOW ARE LOCKDOWNS BEING ENFORCED IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES?
Countries around the world are now enforcing lockdowns and nationwide quarantines, but the punishments for flouting them vary from place-to-place
In Spain, residents face fines starting from £90 or even imprisonment if they disobey authorities.
A total of 350 arrests have been made and 31,000 fines handed out to people flouting the restrictions.
One couple caught having sex in a car told police they shared a flat with too many people to get intimate under lockdown, while another four people were fined after being caught taking it in turns to take the same dog for a walk.
The government has also said that any company that can help in the extra production of diagnosis material and protective equipment like masks, glasses, or gloves must contact them or face a fine.
Authorities in China, the first country in the world to report cases, earlier deployed a fleet of drones through which they could talk to people and encourage them to go home.
They also set up checkpoints on the streets and at the entrance of residence buildings where people had to get their temperature checked before passing.
In Italy, Europe’s worst-hit country, authorities so far charged over 40,000 people with ignoring the lockdown.
The face fines of £190 and three-month prison terms.
In France, anyone caught outside without justification is being given a fine equivalent to £128, while repeat offenders face detention and ultimately imprisonment.
President Emmanuel Macron this week expressed concern that people were not understanding the severity of the crisis.
In Australia, fines as high as £25,000 could be handed out to people failing to isolate themselves appropriately.
The man is seen being loaded onto a stretcher in RomeCredit: Getty Images – GettyBritish nurse tells of the awful scenes in Italy as ‘so many people are dying’ following the coronavirus outbreak
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