Italy’s Covid indicators improving ahead of curbs lifting, experts urge caution


Italy continued moving toward next week’s planned easing of coronavirus restrictions as data from the Ministry of Health showed a gradual decline in infection and mortality rate.

Data released on Thursday showed 16,232 new infections in the previous 24 hours, higher than Wednesday’s 13,844.

But the total number of infections over the week ending Thursday witnessed a 12 per cent decline over the previous week, the Xinhua news agency reported.

It is the first time that the weekly figure was below 100,000 since early February, and the fourth consecutive week the weekly number declined.

There were 360 deaths recorded on Thursday, a decline of four from a day earlier. It is the 13th consecutive day the daily death toll was under 500, and the weekly death toll dropped more than 20 per cent from the previous week.

Other data showed similar trends: the number of patients in intensive care units was 3,021 Thursday, 55 fewer than the day before. The country’s recoveries rose by 19,125 on Thursday to above 3.33 million. Recoveries outnumber new cases on Thursday for the 17th consecutive day.

Italy continued to move toward eased coronavirus restrictions starting next week. As of Thursday, all of Italy’s 20 regions were classified as “red” or “orange” zones — the two most restrictive categories in the country’s four-color system of regional health restrictions.

Starting Monday, indications are that the majority of regions — media reports speculate it could be 13 of 20, including Lombardy and Lazio, the two largest — will switch to “yellow,” the second least restrictive category.

That means restaurants and bars will be open with outdoor seating, and museums, cinemas, and theaters will be open with capacity limits. Outdoor sports will be permitted again.

According to the agricultural union Coldiretti, the new rules for restaurants and bars will allow around half of the urban establishments to reopen. In rural areas, the percentages will be higher.

Despite the positive signs, health experts urged caution.

Nino Cartabellotta of the Gimbe Foundation called the government’s decision to ease restrictions a “reasoned risk,” while warning “the virus is still in circulation in our country.”

Massimo Galli, head of the infectious disease section at Sacco Hospital in Milan, said he was worried people will over-step the remaining limits after restrictions are eased next week.

“I have the impression that the upcoming openings will be perceived as meaning ‘everything open,’ and frankly I am worried,” Galli said.

Italy’s vaccination rollout continues to gather momentum with a goal of reaching 500,000 vaccinations per day by the end of this month.

As of Thursday, over 16.55 million people in Italy have received at least one vaccine dose, while 4.87 million people have been fully vaccinated.