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Italy tops 1,000 daily COVID-19 cases for first time since May; rules out new lockdown

Italy tops 1,000 daily COVID-19 cases for first time since May; rules out new lockdown

FILE PHOTO: The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Rome

ROME: Italy's health ministry on Saturday (Aug 22) 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.

But the Italian government is not considering new lockdown to curb coronavirus infections, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said in a newspaper interview on Sunday.

Italy, one of Europe's worst-hit countries with more than 35,000 deaths, has managed to contain the 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 nightlife for causing people to gather in numbers.

"We will not have a new lockdown," Speranza told daily newspaper La Stampa, saying the current situation cannot be compared to February and March, when the disease was spreading out of control and it was difficult to track and isolate infected people.

"I am optimistic, although prudent. Our national health service has become much stronger."

Speranza added that Italy has doubled the number of beds in intensive care units.

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.

In a separate interview with newspaper Corriere della Sera, Health Undersecretary Sandra Zampa said she was convinced Italy would not impose a nationwide lockdown but did not rule out restrictions on territories where there are spikes in infection numbers.

On Saturday, Lazio, around Rome, was the Italian region to see the largest number of new cases, with 215. Of these, around 60 per cent were people returning from holidays in other parts of Italy and abroad, the region's health chief said.

The northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto, where Italy's epidemic first came to light on Feb 21, saw 185 and 160 new cases respectively.

Italy has taken countermeasures to try to stem the recent uptrend, shutting down clubs and discos and making it compulsory to wear a mask at night in outdoor public spaces.

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.

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Source: Reuters

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