Italy had its highest number of fatalities since World War II last year, registering 746,146 deaths, 15% more than the annual average for 2015-2019, the Italian statistical office, ISTAT, said in Rome on Friday.
The country of 60 million inhabitants was hit by a first wave of the coronavirus at the end of February 2020, and the latest figures from the authorities focus on mortality between March and December.
During the 10-month period, the death toll was 20% higher than in the corresponding periods from 2015 to 2019. This does not mean, however, that the increase was directly linked to COVID-19. The experts stress that it could also be linked to the saturation of hospitals.
The health authorities reported 24,000 new infections in 24 hours on Friday, bringing the country’s cumulative total to over three million. That figure is expected to be lower than the real number since many people show few or no symptoms or do not go for testing. In the latest 24-hour period, 297 people died from COVID in Italy.
The situation is worsening and, on Friday, Health Minister Roberto Speranza announced that Italy would be stepping up the fight against the pandemic, imposing new restrictions in three regions. From Monday, Friuli-Venetia Guilia and Venetia in the north will be downgraded from yellow (average risk) to orange (moderate risk), while Campania, which includes Naples, will be coded red (high-risk).
The measures come as the Higher Institute of Health, ISS, which advises the Government on its fight against COVID-19, stressed on Friday that the reproduction rate – the speed at which the virus spreads – had topped the critical ceiling of 1.0 for the first time and was now 1.06.
Rates above 1.0 imply that the epidemic is worsening since they mean that each infected person spreads the infection to more than one other person, on average.
Restrictions vary from region to region, with the strictest in red zones, where bars, restaurants, schools and creches are closed, and travel is prohibited except for work or health reasons.