Coronavirus deaths jump by 756 in Italy as total toll reaches 10,779
Italian authorities said Sunday they would extend a month-long lockdown to stem the coronavirus pandemic, as the death toll in the country reached 10,779 after the number of fatalities rose by 756 in 24 hours.
The number of fatalities, by far the highest of any country in the world, account for more than a third of all deaths from the infectious virus worldwide. Lombardy, the hardest hit Italian region, reported a rise in deaths of around 416 on Sunday.
Nevertheless, the daily rise in infections has slowed to 5.6 percent – the lowest rate since Italian officials started tracking cases following the first death on February 21.
Italy's largest daily toll was registered on Friday, when 919 people died. There were 889 deaths on Saturday.
The total number of confirmed cases in Italy rose on Sunday to 97,689 from a previous 92,472, the lowest daily rise in new cases since Wednesday.
Of those infected nationwide, 13,030 had fully recovered on Sunday, compared to 12,384 the day before. There were 3,906 people in intensive care, up from the previous 3,856.
"We are witnessing a slowdown," University of Milan virologist Fabrizio Pregliasco told the Il Corriere della Sera daily.
"It is not plateau yet, but it is a good sign."
Italy closed all of its schools at the start of the month and then began gradually imposing a lockdown, tightening it successively until almost all stores were shut on March 12.
The measures – since adopted to varying degrees across most of Europe – did not prevent Italy's death toll from overtaking that in China, where the disease was first reported, on March 19.
Lockdown 'inevitably extended'
And while the lockdown – which is officially due to end on April 3 – is economically painful, officials appear determined to extend it until the coronavirus is finally stopped in its tracks.
Regional affairs minister Francesco Boccia said the question facing the government was not whether it would be extended, but by how long.
"The measures expiring on April 3 will inevitably be extended," Boccia told Italy's Sky TG24 television.
"I think that, at the moment, talking about re-opening is inappropriate and irresponsible."
A final decision is expected to be made at a ministerial meeting in the coming days. Boccia also indicated that the eventual easing of the different confinement measures would be gradual.
"We all want to go back to normal," he said. "But we will have to do it by turning on one switch at a time."
In theory, the existing state of national health emergency allows Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to extend the lockdown until July 31.
More than 662,700 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus across the world and 30,751 have died, according to a Reuters tally.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)
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