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COVID-19 cases in Italy exceed 100,000; over 11,000 deaths

ROME: The coronavirus pandemic claimed 11,591 lives in locked-down Italy up to Monday, as the cumulative number of cases reached 101,739, according to the latest data by the Civil Protection Department managing the national emergency response.

The country also registered the highest daily increase in the number of COVID-19 patients recovered at 1,590, Xinhua news agency reported on Monday.

The death of 812 COVID-19 patients was registered on a daily basis, compared to 756 in the previous 24 hours, Civil Protection Department chief and extraordinary commissioner Angelo Borrelli told a press conference.

The number of active infections rose by 1,648 against the previous day, reaching 75,528. Of those, some 3,981 people were currently in intensive care, and 27,795 were hospitalized in normal wards.

“The majority of people who have tested positive — namely 43,752 or about 58 percent (of positive) — are isolated at home, because asymptomatic or with light symptoms,” Borrelli said.

The official also highlighted the positive trend in recoveries, which grew by 1,590 cases in 24 hours to 14,620 by Monday.

“This is the highest daily increase of recoveries registered since the coronavirus has started spreading across our country, and the emergency began,” the Borrelli stressed.

By topping 100,000, Italy reported the second most cumulative number of coronavirus cases in the world, just after the United States, and was followed by Spain and China.

At geographical level, the most affected regions by the pandemic remained Lombardy (25,006 active cases), Emilia Romagna (10,766), Veneto (7,564), and Piedmont (7,655), all of them in northern Italy.

However, the worst-hit Lombardy seemed to be seeing a timid light at the end of the tunnel, according to local authorities.

“The increase in the number of infections keeps slowing down … with 1,154 new positive cases compared to yesterday, when we had 1,592 more cases,” Lombardy’s Welfare Councillor Giulio Gallera told a press conference broadcast live on social media and TV networks from Milan.

Lombardy’s death toll remained very high (6,818), with a daily increase of 458 fatalities, higher than 416 a day earlier, according to Gallera.

Top health authorities confirmed a slowdown in the contagion there. “In Lombardy — and especially in the worst-hit areas of Lodi and Bergamo — the number of infectious respiratory events for which regional emergency vehicles have been called is markedly reduced,” Higher Health Council (CSS) president Franco Locatelli told the press conference alongside Borrelli.

“Interventions (deploy of emergency vehicles ) on the territory have halved compared to March 14-15,” Locatelli said, adding that the country was moving “in the right direction.”

“We must not change our strategy, absolutely. The return to normality will be a gradual process … the goal is to contain the situation now, and prevent further hotbeds,” he stressed.

Looking at health workers on the frontline of the emergency, some 63 doctors were among those who have died due to the infection — of which at least 11 over the last 24 hours — the National Federation of the Orders of Doctors and Dentists (FNOMCeO) said on Monday.

In addition, 8,358 health professionals (comprising doctors, nurses, and other sector workers) were among those who tested positive, according to the latest available statistics by the National Health Institute (ISS) updated to March 29.

Nicola Zingaretti, the leader of the country’s main Democratic Party, said on Monday that he is cured from the coronavirus, more than three weeks after he became the country’s first high-profile politician contracting the coronavirus.

On the political side of the crisis, meanwhile, the central government’s latest step to help local authorities face the economic impact of the emergency met with a mixed response.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s cabinet late on Saturday had announced it would allocate some 400 million euros (440 million U.S. dollars) to municipalities in order to provide food coupons to households struggling to buy basic goods in these weeks.

This is because many poor and low-income families across the locked-down country have remained without a source of income while the halt imposed to all non-essential economic activities continues.

The amount, however, was deemed limited by the National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI) on Monday.

ANCI vice-president Roberto Pella further explained the financial provision was indeed welcomed, but it could “suffice up to mid-April.”

“It is necessary to think about the months that lie ahead, and the amount of 1 billion (euros) could be an effective first response to the (needs of) 8,000 Italian municipalities,” all-news TV channel SKY TG24 quoted Pella as saying.

At 12 a.m. on Tuesday, on the initiative of the ANCI, Italian mayors will put all flags at half-mast and municipalities will observe one and a half minutes of silence as a sign of national solidarity.

Private citizens and firms have so far donated 63.8 million euros (70.2 million U.S. dollars) to a special bank account opened by the Civil Protection Department and devoted specifically to the emergency.

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