ROME: A sample survey has shown that more than half the residents of the northern Italian city of Bergamo have COVID-19 antibodies, city health authorities said on Monday (Jun 8).
Of 9,965 residents who had blood tests between Apr 23 and Jun 3, 57 per cent of them had antibodies indicating they had come into contact with the coronavirus, the survey showed.
The city health authorities said the sample was "sufficiently broad" to be a reliable indicator of how many people had been infected in Bergamo, which became the epicentre of Italy's outbreak.
Antibodies were found in just over 30 per cent of the 10,404 health operators tested although they are generally considered more at risk than other people.
In a report released in early May, national statistics institute ISTAT said the number of deaths in Bergamo was up 568 per cent in March compared with the 2015-2019 average, making it Italy's worst-hit city in terms of deaths.
Its hospitals were soon overwhelmed by infected people and, with morgues unable to keep up, convoys of army trucks carrying away the dead became a chilling symbol of the global pandemic.
Bergamo province has reported 13,609 coronavirus cases, official data showed on Monday.
ISTAT and the health ministry have launched a nationwide blood testing campaign, aiming to test a representative sample of some 150,000 people to understand the extent of Italy's COVID-19 epidemic.
Italy has reported almost 34,000 coronavirus deaths, with some 235,000 confirmed cases. The Lombardy region, which includes Bergamo, has registered over 16,000 deaths.