By Cristina Cabrejas
Rome, Mar 28 (efe-epa).- Another 889 Italians succumbed to the coronavirus overnight, bringing the country’s death toll to 10,023, but the number of new infections continues to trend downward, the Civil Protection Agency said Saturday.
Active cases – excluding fatalities and those who have recovered – climbed by 3,651 to 70,075. That represents a 5 percent increase over 24 hours, compared with an advance of 7 percent from Thursday to Friday.
Though the 889 fatalities is the second-highest one-day total since the crisis began, civil protection director Angelo Borrelli stressed that the number of patients released from hospital doubled in the last 24 hours to set a new peak of 1,434.
Some 12,000 Italians who tested positive for Covid-19 have recovered.
When pressed during a news briefing about the still-high number of new fatalities, Borrelli said that the figures would be even worse if authorities had not adopted drastic measures to contain the virus.
“And the health facilities that already find themselves in critical condition would have been in a traumatic state, an unsustainable situation,” he said.
Italy’s hospitals are currently treating 26,676 people with Covid-19 symptoms – 647 more than Friday – and the number of patients in intensive care units grew by 124 to 3,856. Nearly 40,000 other people are under quarantine in their homes.
An additional 35,447 tests were carried out over the last day, lifting the total to 429,526.
Italy’s worst-affected region, Lombardy, reported 542 new fatalities on Saturday, the same as the previous day. The illness has claimed nearly 6,000 lives in the northern territory.
At the same time, the number of new infections in Lombardy declined from 2,409 to 2,117, while the ranks of patients in hospital ICUs edged up by only 27 to 1,319.
Despite what appears to be a reduction in the pace of contagion, the Italian government is said to be preparing to extend the current package of restrictive measures for two weeks beyond the original expiration date of April 3.
Non-essential businesses and industries have been ordered to shut down. People have been told to stay home except for trips to buy necessities or seek medical care and to limit outdoor exercise to he immediate area around their homes.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte has already said that schools will remain closed beyond April 3.
“I feel sorry for the inhabitants, but I do it to protect your health and solely in your interest,” Veneto regional president Luca Zaia said in announcing that he planned to ask the central government to prolong the lockdown.
In Italy’s poorer south, concerns are growing that the strains created by the lockdown will do serious damage to the economy, while there are reports from Sicily about robberies at supermarkets.
“I am afraid that as the crisis drags on, the worries of broad swathes of the population about health, income and the future will be transformed into anger and hate,” the minister for southern Italy, Peppe Provenzano, said in an interview. EFE