Coronavirus latest: Italy records highest one-day toll with 475 new coronavirus deaths

Italy on Wednesday (Mar 18) reported 475 new deaths from the novel coronavirus, the highest one-day official toll of any nation since the first case was detected in China late last year. However, some experts say the numbers in Italy will only begin to stabilise by mid-April
March 19, 2020 | 08:01
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A patient in a biocontainment unit is carried on a stretcher from an ambulance after arriving at the Columbus Covid 2 Hospital in Rome, Italy. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

Total deaths in Italy have reached 2,978, more than half of all the cases recorded outside China, while the number of infections stood at 35,713.

The previous record high of 368 deaths was also recorded in Italy, on Sunday.

The nation of 60 million has now recorded 34.2 percent of all the deaths officially attributed to COVID-19 across the world.

With the death rate still climbing despite the Mediterranean country entering a second week under effective lockdown, officials urged Italians to have faith and to stay strong.

"They main thing is, do not give up," Italian National Institute of Health chief Silvio Brusaferro said in a nationally televised press conference.

"It will take a few days before we see the benefits" of containment measures, said Brusaferro.

"We must maintain these measures to see their effect, and above all to protect the most vulnerable."

Imposed nationally on Mar 12, the shutdown of most Italian businesses and a ban on public gatherings are due to expire on Mar 25.

But school closures and other measures, such as a ban fan attendance at sporting events, are due to run on until Apr 3.

A top government minister hinted on Wednesday that the school closure would be extended well into next month, if not longer.

Italian data, rising nationwide by hundreds of deaths and thousands of infections every day, vary depending on the region, and a whole range of different factors are at play, with two-thirds of the deaths - 1,959 in all - reported in the northern Lombardy region around Milan, the Italian financial and fashion capital.

The neighbouring Emilia-Romagna region of Bologna has suffered a total of 458 fatalities, and Turin's Piedmont region has had 154 deaths.

Rome's Lazio region has a toll of 32 deaths and 724 infections.

Mar 23-25 peak

A team of infectious diseases and computer experts at the University of Genoa says it has a drawn up a model that predicts the evolution of COVID-19 "with an acceptable margin of error".

This model shows that in terms of new daily infections, the cases will peak between Mar 23-25.

What happens after that will depend largely on Italian government policies, and how Italians themselves behave.

"Reaching the peak doesn't mean you're in the clear," University of Genoa professor Giorgio Sestili cautioned.

"It only means that the epidemic has started to slow down and that - a few days later - you will have reached the saturation point of intensive care cases."

Sestili pointed that there will also be "imbalances" between Italy's 22 regions, with not every one reaching a peak at the same time.

MAR 25 to APR 15

Italy's National Research Council (CNR) expects a "significant reduction" in the growth rate of new infections in the Lombardy region around Rome by next Tuesday or Wednesday.

The northern region of around 10 million people has been at the epicentre of the crisis since the start, reporting two thirds of all the deaths in the nation of 60 million.

It has been under lockdown since Mar 8.

Noting that infections are starting to rise in the south, where many Italians moved to after the start of containment measures in the north, the CNR predicts that figures across Italy will only stabilise between Mar 25 and Apr 15.

It noted that people's behaviour changes, depending on what government measures are passed./.

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