Italy reported the fewest new coronavirus cases in nearly six weeks as government advisers urge caution before any easing of a nationwide lockdown that’s paralyzing the economy.
There were 2,256 new cases of the disease, compared with 3,047 a day earlier, according to the civil protection agency. That’s the lowest figure since March 10. Confirmed cases now total 181,228.
Italy registered 454 deaths linked to the virus, compared with 433 the day before. That brings the total number of fatalities to 24,114.
The government’s medical and scientific advisers have focused on the reproduction factor — known by epidemiologists as R-naught-– to help assess the spread of the disease. Italy’s R0 has fallen to below 1, meaning that each person with the virus infects an average of less than one other person.
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Active cases — the number of confirmed people who are currently carrying the virus — declined for the first time, and Italy also reported 1,822 patients recovered over the past 24 hours.
Italy is doing “decisively better,” Giovanni Rezza, head of the infectious diseases department at Rome’s national health institute, told newspaper la Repubblica earlier Monday. He pointed to a fall in new cases over recent weeks, less pressure on hospitals and the R0, which was initially above 3. But Rezza was cautious about any easing.
“We’ve made a lot of progress, we’ve got more intensive-care beds, there are more tests, but from now on we need to act at local level to quickly identify any outbreak, because the virus will continue to circulate,” Rezza said.
The number of new cases in the northern region of Lombardy, the worst-hit by the virus, will likely not fall to zero before the end of June, according to a study by a national health observatory headed by Walter Ricciardi of Rome’s Catholic University of the Sacred Heart, who’s also a member of the executive board at the World Health Organization.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, under pressure from businesses to restart the economy, has said a relaxation will come only after May 4. The containment measures shutter all non-essential economic activity and virtually confine people to their homes save for buying food and medicine, work, health and emergency reasons.