ROME, Oct 10 (Xinhua) Italy recorded 5,372 new coronavirus infections, according to the Italian Health Ministry. As recently as mid-August, infection rate totals remained steady in the low hundreds, even as they climbed in other parts of Europe. Italy had been praised by leaders and the media for mostly keeping the pandemic at bay.
Italy’s infection rate has now jumped by around 1,000 over each of the last three days — from 2,676 (on Tuesday) to 3,678 (Wednesday) then 4,458 (Thursday) followed by Friday’s grim total, according the Health Ministry on Friday
Over the last week, the Italian government began to tighten health rules based on recommendations from health officials, including mandatory mask use while outdoors and mandatory body temperature controls before entering any building open to the public. Businesses open to the public are required to offer disinfectant gel to their patrons.
With the national state of emergency extended into next year, the government retains the power to close down neighborhoods or towns where clusters of infections emerge. Italian news reports published Thursday and Friday quoted government sources as saying the next step could be closing down bars and gymnasiums. But schools, which started reopening a month ago, are expected to stay open for the time being. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and Minister of Health Roberto Speranza have both vowed to do everything possible to avoid a national coronavirus lockdown like the one applied in early March and gradually eased starting in May. The recent trend in the infection rate made the pandemic the top story on most Italian news sites, though many articles sought to reassure people that the country was less at risk than it was last spring, noting that hospitals are more prepared and the availability of testing is now far greater than it had been. So far during the new wave of infections, the biggest hot spots in the country are in and around Milan, which bore the brunt of the first wave of the pandemic in March and April, and near the sprawling southern port city of Naples, which was largely spared in the spring. There were 387 patients in intensive care units Friday, another data point that has seen a steady rise in recent weeks. Two weeks ago, the number was 246. The mortality rate in Italy has remained low despite the rise in the infection rate and the slow increase in the number of patients in intensive-care units: 28 new deaths were recorded Friday. But health officials say the death rate will see an increase if the infection rate remains high.