Italy’s health ministry on Saturday reported 1,071 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, exceeding 1,000 cases in a day for the first time since May when the government eased rigid lockdown measures.
Italy, one of Europe’s worst-hit countries with more than 35,000 deaths, has managed to contain the Covid-19 outbreak after a peak in deaths and cases between March and April.
However, it has seen a steady increase in infections over the last month, with experts blaming holidays and night life for causing people to gather in numbers.
The country last recorded a higher figure on May 12, when 1,402 cases were reported, six days before restaurants, bars and shops were allowed to reopen after a 10-week lockdown.
Despite the rise in infections, daily death tallies remain low and are often in single figures. Saturday saw just three fatalities, compared to nine on Friday and six on Thursday, health ministry data showed.
The number of new infections remains considerably lower than those registered in Spain and France.
‘Don’t feel invincible’
On Saturday, Lazio, around Rome, was the Italian region to see the largest number of new cases, with 215.
The figure for Rome is a record, more than the 208 people were infected in a one-day period on March 28, when Rome came to a virtual standstill to stop the coronavirus spreading, the capital’s health official Alessio D’Amato said.
“Sixty-one percent (of the cases) are linked to people returning from vacation,” D’Amato said, almost half the cases were returning from the island of Sardinia.
Sardinia had been spared the first wave earlier this year but D’Amato said the movement of tourists and people partying had helped spread the virus.
Francesco Vaia, director of Rome’s Spallanzani Hospital specialising in infectious diseases, told Italian media “the solution is to do tests on departing boats, planes and trains. This is the only way to prevent the virus spreading”.
D’Amato said most of those infected were young people who were not showing symptoms and it was urgent to “block the chain of transmission as fast as possible by finding the asymptomatic and averting the spread of the virus among families.
“Be very careful especially with your relatives and the people dearest to you,” he said in an appeal to the young.
He warned them to stay at home and not meet up with people while awaiting test results. “Don’t feel invincible,” he urged them.
Italy — particularly the northern Lombardy region, the Venice area and Rome — are seeing a resurgence in the virus over the summer.
The Italian government has taken several steps to block the spread, such as closing nightclubs since August 17 and making mask wearing compulsory in busy public spaces between 6pm and 6am.
Travellers from several non-EU countries have been banned from entering Italy, with restrictions and testing obligations imposed on people returning from hard-hit European countries.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP and REUTERS)