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Italy sees second successive drop in virus deaths
A priest (C) reads prayers from the book of funeral rites by the coffin of a deceased person in the cemetery of Grassobbio, Lombardy, on March 23, 2020, in the absence of quarantined relatives.
AFP/Piero Cruciatti

Italy sees second successive drop in virus deaths

Dmitry Zaks (Agence France-Presse) - March 24, 2020 - 7:45am

ROME, Italy — Italy on Monday reported a second successive drop in daily deaths and infections from a coronavirus that has nevertheless claimed more than 6,000 lives in a month.

The Mediterranean country has now seen its daily fatalities come down from a world record 793 on Saturday to 651 on Sunday and 601 on Monday.

The number of new declared infections fell from 6,557 on Saturday to 4,789 on Monday.

The top medical officer for Milan's devastated Lombardy region appeared on television smiling for the first time in many weeks.

"We cannot declare victory just yet," Giulio Gallera said.

"But there is light at the end of the tunnel."

Italy's National Health Institute (ISS) chief Silvio Brusaferro was more guarded.

"These are positive number but I do not have the courage to firmly state that there is a downward trend," the medical expert told reporters.

Italians will desperately hope that weeks of living under a lockdown in which even a jog in the park was eventually banned was the price worth paying for beating back the new disease.

Saturday's record toll was followed by a late-night address to the nation in which Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the additional closure of "non-essential" factories.

His government also banned travel to help a country that turned into the new epicentre of the pandemic last week get through a critical stretch in which restrictions are supposed to finally show results.

"Now more than ever, everyone's commitment is needed," Health Minister Roberto Speranza said after Monday's figures came out.

Italy's toll now stands at 6,077 — more than that of China and third-placed Spain combined.

Nerves starting to fray

Italy has sacrificed its economy and liberties by closing and banning almost everything to halt the spread of a virus the government views as an existential threat.

The nation has rallied around its exhausted doctors and tried to deal with life under a state of emergency with humour and grace.

Entire city blocks have organised balcony parties with nightly DJs. There have been singalongs and synchronised rounds of applause.

But Italians' nerves were clearly starting to fray and the pushback on social media against the ever-changing rules and tightening regulations was getting strong.

Twitter posts went viral ridiculing mayors and regional chiefs who threatened to jail joggers and fine people for walking their dogs too far from their homes.

The government's new partial ban of seemingly random industries added to an air of confusion in the face of a disease Conte has called Italy's biggest disaster since World War II.

Auto part makers were allowed to stay open but steel mills were shut. News stands could still operate but book stores could not.

Decision time

The reality is that Conte's team is running out of things to close or ban.

Other nations are also watching the Italian numbers to see if Conte's ban-everything tactics work.

Italy is on the frontline of a war against a disease being fought by means that currently restrict freedoms and devastate economies.

Some are starting to openly ask if this price is too high — even as the global death toll soars.

Officials pleaded with the nation of 60 million — people accustomed to celebrating life outdoors deep into the night — to sacrifice individual liberties for the common good for two weeks.

The initial restrictions placed on the northern epicentre of the pandemic around Milan expired on Sunday and the national measures are set to end on Wednesday.

Conte indicated last week that he might need to extend the restrictions indefinitely.

His decision is expected within days.

"If everyone — and I stress everyone -—respects our bans, we will emerge from this very difficult test first," Conte said on Monday.

ITALY NOVEL CORONAVIRUS
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: May 15, 2021 - 6:49pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

May 15, 2021 - 6:49pm

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 3,359,726 people since the outbreak emerged in China in December 2019, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP.

At least 161,795,290 cases of coronavirus have been registered. The vast majority have recovered, though some have continued to experience symptoms weeks or even months later.

These figures are based on daily tolls provided by health authorities in each country and exclude later re-evaluations by statistical organizations, as has happened in Russia, Spain and Britain.

May 15, 2021 - 3:27pm

Taiwan orders stricter social distancing measures for its capital and surrounding areas on Saturday after a sudden spike in coronavirus cases in a place that has so far weathered the pandemic comparatively unscathed.

Authorities raised the alert level for Taipei and New Taipei City after 180 new domestic coronavirus infections were confirmed, up from 29 cases the previous day.

The new restrictions mean no more than five people can gather indoors and 10 outdoors -- but authorities stopped short of ordering a total lockdown. — AFP

May 14, 2021 - 9:00am

The top US health agency on Thursday said it was lifting mask-wearing guidance for people who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19, a watershed moment that President Joe Biden called "a great day" in the long pandemic fight.

The announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) marked an abrupt turnaround after more than a year of urging people to cover their faces to stem the spread.

"Anyone who is fully vaccinated can participate in indoor and outdoor activities, large or small, without wearing a mask or physical distancing," CDC director Rochelle Walensky said during a briefing.

"If you are fully vaccinated, you can start doing the things that you had stopped doing because of the pandemic." — AFP

May 13, 2021 - 3:30pm

At the peak of Kenya's third wave of COVID-19 in March, hospitals — buckling under the strain of the virus — saw their oxygen reserves fizzle out. 

Since then, they have been scrambling to increase capacity of the lifesaving element, fearing the nightmare scenario currently unfolding in India due to oxygen shortages.

On the roof of the Metropolitan Hospital, a 150-bed private institution that targets the middle class, a brand-new oxygen production unit has just been installed that is capable of producing up to 600 liters of the gas per minute.

Metropolitan CEO Kanyenje Gakombe said the hospital accelerated plans to produce its own oxygen after supplies were squeezed to the limit during the height of the third wave, fanned by the variants of the coronavirus first detected in Britain and South Africa.

In April Kenya registered a record 571 deaths, and the health ministry warned hospitals were overrun with fewer than 300 patients in the Intensive Care Unit and fewer than 2,000 hospitalised countrywide. — AFP

May 12, 2021 - 6:19pm

The catastrophic scale of the Covid-19 pandemic could have been prevented had the warning signs been heeded, the global panel investigating the world's coronavirus response concluded Wednesday.

The Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response blamed a "toxic cocktail" of dithering and poor coordination, said the World Health Organization could have sounded the alarm sooner, and urged rich countries to donate one billion vaccine doses by September, in its long-awaited final report. —  AFP

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