Italy’s COVID-19 deaths near 97,000, new anti-virus decree in pipeline

Italy on Thursday reported 308 COVID-19 deaths, down from 318 on Wednesday and pushing to 96,974 the death toll since the pandemic outbreak.

The Ministry of Health also reported 19,886 new coronavirus cases, bringing total active infections to 396,143. The new infections were up from 16,424 new cases recorded on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, 12,853 COVID-19 patients recovered on Thursday, down from 14,599 recoveries on Wednesday and pushing overall recoveries to 2,375,318.

Of the total current infections, the vast majority or 375,718 people are isolated at home with mild or no symptoms, 18,257 are hospitalized with symptoms, and 2,168 are hospitalized in intensive care.

Among the overall fatalities, 332 are doctors who lost their lives while battling the new coronavirus, according to a running tally by the National Federation of Medical, Surgical and Orthodontists Boards (FNOMCeO, in its Italian acronym).

RESTRICTIONS REMAIN IN PLACE

In a report to parliament on Wednesday, Health Minister Roberto Speranza warned lawmakers that restrictions must remain in place.

“In Europe, we are heading to the threshold of one infected person in every 10 inhabitants, and we are at one fatality per 530 inhabitants,” Speranza said, adding that these numbers are a testament to “the strength and dangerousness of the virus we are fighting.”

Speranza noted that the government led by Prime Minister Mario Draghi is at work on a new anti-coronavirus decree, which “will go into effect from March 6 to April 6.”

This means Italians will not be able to travel across regional borders on Easter Sunday and Easter Monday, which this year fall on April 4 and 5.

Easter weekend is the first springtime holiday of the year, and people traditionally take trips to the country, to the seaside, or to the mountains with family and friends.

On Thursday, agricultural union Coldiretti said in an analysis that “the expectation of new restrictive measures has put a stop to the travel plans of one in three Italians (32 percent)” over the Easter holiday.

“This is a heavy blow…for many of Italy’s 24,000 agritourism venues, which have been hit hard by the COVID emergency and whose losses have reached 1.2 billion euros” since the start of the pandemic, Coldiretti stated.

In his report to parliament, Speranza made a case for sticking with the restrictions, saying: “we must limit the spread of the contagion until we are able to definitively contain COVID-19 and its variants with our vaccination campaign.”

Since Italy launched the vaccination campaign in December, over 3.9 million people have been inoculated in the country of some 60 million inhabitants, according to the Ministry of Health.

The rollout speeded up on Monday, when the vaccination was extended to school teachers and staff. Italy is now inoculating an average of 100,000 people a day, the ministry said in a statement.

Meanwhile, 255 candidate vaccines are being developed worldwide — 73 of them are in clinical trials — in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain, and the United States, the World Health Organization said on Tuesday.