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COVID-19: Italy reports 681 new deaths, rate slows

Rise in contagions stabilizes, fueling hopes of turnaround, data show unprecedented drop in intensive care cases

Giada Zampano   | 04.04.2020
COVID-19: Italy reports 681 new deaths, rate slows


Italy on Saturday reported 681 more deaths from the novel coronavirus, bringing the total number of fatalities to 15,362 -- the highest in the world -- but confirming a slowdown in the death rate.

The slowing trend recently registered in the rise of infections -- clearly down from the double-digit rises in the early stages of the outbreak -- seems supporting the government's hopes that a peak of the contagion is nearing.

Current infections grew 3.3% from Friday to reach 88,274. The number of recovered people also continued to surge, climbing to 20,996.

Head of Italy’s Civil Protection Department Angelo Borrelli stressed that Saturday’s data showed -- for the first time since the beginning of the emergency -- a drop in the number of intensive care patients, which fell by 74.

“This is an important sign for our hospitals, which can finally breathe a sigh of relief,” Borrelli said at his daily press conference.

The epicenter of the Italian outbreak remains the northern Lombardy region, which now counts 8,656 victims, more than half of the total number.

To respond to the prolonged emergency, the Italian government on Wednesday extended an almost-total lockdown – which has halted most production and business activities in Italy - for another two weeks, until at least April 13.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said the government would start softening the measures only when scientists approve such a move, but he did not provide a specific date.

On Saturday, an Italian policeman who worked as a security guard for Conte died after contracting COVID-19, the country's police said.

Giorgio Guastamacchia, 52, had tested positive for the novel coronavirus late March. He had then been hospitalized in a Roman hospital and taken to an intensive care unit, due to his serious condition.

The Italian government said at the time that he had not been in contact with Conte for at least two weeks. The premier, however, tested negative for the virus.

Since appearing in Wuhan, China, last December, the novel coronavirus has spread to at least 181 countries and regions, according to data compiled by the U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University.

The data shows over 1.1 million cases have been reported worldwide, with the global death toll over 62,300, and more than 235,700 recoveries.

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