Europe, Latest on coronavirus outbreak

Italy reports 542 new deaths as daily rate slows

Daily rise in number of victims lowest in 3 weeks, government mulls how to handle 'phase 2'

Giada Zampano   | 08.04.2020
Italy reports 542 new deaths as daily rate slows

ROME

Italy on Wednesday reported 542 more deaths from the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of fatalities to 17,669 -- the highest worldwide -- but registering a slight acceleration in active infections.

The daily rise in the number of victims is the lowest in about three weeks, supporting the government's hopes that the curve has reached a plateau.

Current infections grew 1.3% from Tuesday to 95,262 -- a bit higher than the previous day when the rise was at 0.9%. The number of recovered people touched a new record, climbing to 26,491, while the number of intensive care patients dropped for the fourth consecutive day.

The epicenter of the Italian outbreak remains the northern Lombardy region, which now counts 9,722 victims.

In its ongoing battle to contain the outbreak, the Italian government has extended an almost-total lockdown -- which halted most production and business activities in Italy -- until at least April 13.

But authorities are worried that the nice weather, coupled with the upcoming Easter vacation, will push more people outdoors, multiplying the risks of restarting the contagions’ rise.

Both scientists and government officials are issuing warnings, asking people to stay at home, and avoid outdoor activities. But pressures are growing for the government to start lifting some of the stringent lockdown measures, at least for key businesses, ahead of the so-called "phase-2" of the pandemic.

One of the strongest calls came on Wednesday from Italy’s business association Confindustria, specifically for the northern regions of Lombardy, Emilia Romagna, Piedmont and Veneto.

“If the four main northern regions, which represent 45% of the Italian output, won’t be able to restart their activities in the short term, the country risks to turn off its engine definitively and every additional day represents a risk of not being able to restart it,” they wrote in a joint appeal.

Since the virus emerged last December in China's Wuhan city, it has spread to at least 184 countries and regions.

There are more than 1.45 million confirmed cases worldwide, with over 83,600 deaths, and above 308,700 recoveries, according to the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

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