Italy health official says country has reached coronavirus ‘plateau’

(Update: adds fresh infection figures, quotes from health ministers)

Rome, Mar 31 (efe-epa).- The head of Italy’s national institutes of health said Tuesday the country has reached a “plateau” in the coronavirus outbreak, as the country honoured victims of the pandemic.

The Mediterranean country has reported 105,792 cases, the highest number of infections in Europe and second-worst in the world since Covid-19 emerged in China in December.

Silvio Brusaferro said the country could soon see a decline in infections after authorities reported 837 fatalities and 2,107 new cases on Tuesday.

“The curve suggests we are at the plateau,” he said.

“We have to confirm it because arriving at the plateau doesn’t mean we have conquered the peak and we’re done.

“It means now we should start to see the decline if we continue to place maximum attention on what we do every day.”

At noon Italy held a minute of silence to honour victims of the outbreak, where it has claimed 12,428 lives, the highest in the world.

In Lombardy, the most affected region, there has been a total of 43,208 infections with a daily increase of 1,047, significantly less than the previous day.

The region’s health minister Giulio Gallera said the figures were a “confirmation of hope” but urged people not to become complacent and said the lockdown, which has been in place for three weeks, must continue.

“Our battle is paying off,” he added and noted that there had been 68 new hospitalisations and for the first time, no one was admitted to an intensive care unit.

Italy’s tricolour flag was flown at half-mast throughout the country in tribute to victims and those working on the front line to fight the pandemic.

Some of the nation’s highest institutions joined the initiative, including presidential residence the Quirinal Palace and Palazzo Chigi, official residence of the prime minister, and the government building in Rome.

The commemoration was proposed by the province of Bergamo, in the Lombardy region, which has been the worst affected area by the deadly disease.

It was welcomed and promoted throughout the country by the National Association of Italian Municipalities (ANCI).

ANCI president Antonio Decaro said in a statement that the intention was to remember the victims of the pandemic and honor the “sacrifice and commitment” of health workers.

He added that it was also intended to demonstrate unity between the areas that have been hardest hit and solidarity from the least affected cities and towns, such as those of the southern regions.

“Despite the serious emergency we are experiencing, we do not want sadness to prevail, but to remain united,” Decaro said.

Experts at the Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance, based in Rome, have predicted that the contagion could be eradicated in parts of Italy by the second or third week of May.

The institute made the projections based on the date the country will have no new infections, which according to the available data could be between May 5 and 16.

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