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Italy looks ahead three months after first COVID-19 outbreak

Rome, May 22 (IANS) The coronavirus infection curve has continued downward overall in Italy, three months after the pandemic officially broke out in the country’s northern Lombardy region on February 21.

Nationwide, the number of active infections dropped by 1,792 to 60,960 cases, according to the Civil Protection Department on Thursday. Recoveries increase by 2,278 compared to Wednesday, bringing the nationwide total to 134,560, Xinhua reported.

A further 156 COVID-19 patients had died in the past 24 hours in Italy, bringing the country’s toll to 32,486, out of total infection cases of 228,006.

Of those who tested positive for the new coronavirus, 640 are in intensive care, 36 fewer compared to Wednesday, and 9,269 are hospitalized with symptoms, down by 355 patients from Wednesday.

The rest 51,051 people, or about 84 percent of those who tested positive, are quarantined at home with no symptoms or only mild symptoms.

The Lombardy region whose capital is Milan still led in terms of cases, with 26,715 active infections. At the other end of the spectrum was the northern Valle d’Aosta region in the Alps, with 43 active infections.

In a report to the Lower House of Parliament on Thursday, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte outlined the government’s strategy for Phase Two, or the post-lockdown phase.

“We realize the challenge that lies ahead is even more difficult and just as dangerous as the one we faced at the beginning of the emergency,” he said.

“Exactly three months after the first case was confirmed (in Lombardy), we can state in good conscience that we made the right choice, the only one that could prevent the epidemic from spreading throughout the national territory,” Conte said in reference to the March 10-May 3 national lockdown decreed by his government.

Although “the epidemiological picture is not completely resolved,” the government believes it is time to return to normality, the prime minister said.

“We are now in a condition to face Phase Two with confidence… We all know a little more about the virus, and how to protect ourselves,” Conte said.

The prime minister also warned young people that “now is not the time for parties” and that “in this phase more than ever, social distancing and the use of masks are essential” in keeping the virus at bay.

“We are aware that starting this new phase could make the contagion curve rise again in some parts of the country,” Conte added.

“It is a calculated risk, and we will keep the (infection) curve under observation,” the prime minister continued. “We must accept this risk. We cannot stop while we wait for a vaccine. Otherwise our productive and social fabric will be irremediably compromised.”

Conte assured lawmakers that the government has “set up an accurate nationwide monitoring system based on data from the regions” and that “this will allow us to intervene should new outbreaks occur.”

Conte also noted that beginning on May 25, “serological tests will be available for free to 150,000 volunteers for the sole purpose of scientific research.”

Scientists want to find out how many healthy people have developed antibodies to the new coronavirus.

Carrying out the tests “will require an effort, based on the work of volunteers” and there will be a “national coordinating structure” to oversee them, the prime minister said.




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