Italy registers lowest one-day death toll in six weeks

Scene from a hospital in Italy

ROME — The coronavirus pandemic has claimed 26,644 lives in locked-down Italy, bringing the total number of infections, fatalities and recoveries to 197,675 as of Sunday, according to latest data released by the country’s Civil Protection Department.

A total of 260 people died from the disease caused by the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, the lowest one-day death toll since March 15, Xinhua news agency reported.

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The number of new cases also fell with 2,324 reported over the last 24 hours, 33 fewer than on Saturday. The figure is the lowest in six days.

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units (ICUs) continued to decline, a trend that started three weeks ago. On Sunday, 2,009 patients were in ICUs, down from 2,102 a day earlier.

The number of patients recovering at home — the mildest of three categories of infected individuals — was 82,722 while those recovering in hospitals with symptoms totaled 21,372. The figures were 82,212 and 21,533 respectively a day earlier.

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Italy entered into a national lockdown on March 10 to contain the pandemic. The lockdown, which is expected to last until May 3, will be followed by a so-called “Phase Two”, which involves “the gradual resumption of social, economic and productive activities,” the Italian government has explained.

Italy’s Ministry of Education said Sunday that schools in the country would remain closed until September, even as the latest data on the spread of the coronavirus pandemic started to show positive signs.

When the national lockdown was imposed on March 10, schools and universities were closed and switched to online class schedules.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is expected to address the nation later on Sunday, presumably to lay out the terms of what government officials have called “Phase Two” of the national quarantine, starting on May 04.

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In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica published Sunday, Conte said that much of the country’s manufacturing and construction sector as well as some businesses would be allowed to reopen from May 4. Other economic sectors — including restaurants, bars and other establishments where crowds gather — would be gradually allowed to reopen after that, provided that data from the outbreak continues the positive trend.

In the published interview, Conte said he was worried that extending the lockdown under its current terms would “risk seriously undermining the socio-economic fabric of the country.”

But the national federation of doctors (FNOMCeO) said on Saturday there were also risks to reopening the economy too quickly.

“The situation is still not under control,” Filippo Anelli, president of FNOMCeO, said in a statement. “The risk is that if we open up, after a month we will have to close everything down again.”

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