(Update: Reledes, adds info about Italy extending lockdown period)
By Gonzalo Sanchez
Rome, Mar 30 (efe-epa).- Italy will extend “all” measures taken so far to contain the spread of the coronavirus, including obligatory self-isolation and movement restrictions, until “at least” April 12, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said Monday.
The restrictions were to have expired on April 3.
The minister made his announcement at a meeting with the technical and scientific committee that advises him and from which he received the recommendation to extend the term of all containment measures “at least until Easter,” or April 12.
“The government will act in that direction,” he read from a communique.
The extension had been widely expected in Italy and the head of the Superior Health Advisory Board, Franco Locatelli, upon being asked on Monday about the potential reopening of the country, responded: “We will speak about that after Easter.”
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had warned that the government probably would extend the containment measures for an additional two weeks.
Italian authorities feel that social distancing and nationwide movement restrictions are the most effective means to contain the spread of the virus.
Thus, they moved early to isolate and shut down the initial foci of the epidemic, namely 11 municipalities in the regions of Lombardy and Venice, and later the entire province of Lombardy along with 14 other provinces, and ultimately on March 9 the entire national territory.
Italy so far has registered 101,739 confirmed coronavirus cases since the crisis began here on Feb. 20, with 75,528 of these patients still infected and 11,591 having died, particularly in the northern part of the country, according to the latest figures.
Meanwhile, Italy, which has suffered more deaths from the coronavirus than any other country, on Monday registered the lowest number of new infections in 20 days, officials said.
Since Sunday, 1,648 new cases have been confirmed, the lowest figure since March 9 when the number of cases began to skyrocket, and which is half of the number of new infections that were reported on the previous two days.
“The number of positive cases is falling,” the president of the Superior Council of Healthcare Franco Locatelli told a press conference.
But the country confirmed 812 additional deaths, the Civil Protection Agency said, bringing the total number of fatalities associated with COVID-19 to 11,591, about one-third of all global deaths from the virus.
Of the active cases, 58 percent only have mild symptoms and are recovering at home.
Of those originally infected nationwide, 14,620 had fully recovered as of Monday, compared to 13,030 the day before. However, there were 3,981 people in intensive care, up from a previous 3,906.
Locatelli said that “1,590 recovered, the highest figure since the beginning of the coronavirus emergency,” but he urged people to continue adhering to the strict restrictions that have been in place for most of the month.
“Every one of us must respect the advice of the authorities, we must follow the instructions to stay at home and go out only for the bare minimum, because only by respecting these measures will we be able to defeat the virus as soon as possible.”
One of the most oft-repeated questions in Italy since the crisis began has been to ask whether the country has reached the “peak” of the curve of new cases.