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Italy sees new surge in daily COVID-19 cases

Expert says ‘Italian’ variant of coronavirus was already circulating in August

29.12.2020
Italy sees new surge in daily COVID-19 cases

By Giada Zampano

ROME (AA) - Italy reported 11,212 new cases of the novel coronavirus Tuesday, rising again above the 10,000 mark after dipping for two days at around 8,000.

Italian health authorities also registered 659 new deaths from COVID-19, up from 445 a day before.

The higher number of daily infections, however, also reflects the larger number of swab tests administered on Monday.

The infection rate fell to 8.7% from 12.5% in the past 24 hours.

Italy is struggling to contain a second outbreak that has proven to be as deadly as the first.

The Italian government has imposed strict restrictions over the Christmas holidays to limit public movements and large gatherings that could further spread the virus across the country, possibly sparking a third wave early next year.

According to Italian virologist Arnaldo Caruso, an “Italian variant” of the virus was circulating weeks before the first known cases of the UK strain and could have been a “precursor” to the British mutation.

Scientists found the strain while analyzing swab samples from a patient who had suffered an unusually persistent COVID-19 infection and had first been diagnosed with the disease in April. However, he was still recording “positive results with highly charged viruses” in August.

The Italian variant is similar to the UK strain, but has a second mutation, Caruso said.

Italy's coronavirus vaccination campaign started on Sunday, as five health workers at Rome's Spallanzani hospital were inoculated with the vaccine jointly developed by German firm BioNTech and US pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

The vaccine will be free of charge and health workers and elderly people will be the first to be offered the voluntary inoculation.

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