Rome, 31 March 2020 (MIA/dpa) — While there were more encouraging signs of a slowing the novel coronavirus contagion, Italy‘s health minister said Monday a national lockdown would be prolonged “at least until Easter.”
The Civil Protection Agency said active coronavirus cases, excluding deaths and recoveries, had risen by 1,648 to 75,528 – the smallest daily variation since March 10.
However, overall infections, including deaths and recoveries, soared above the 100,000-mark to 101,739, and 812 more people died, bringing the total death toll to 11,591, a world record.
According to Matteo Villa, a researcher at the ISPI think tank, Monday’s figures showed that “the peak [in the contagion curve] is nearing.”
“If today’s trend were to be confirmed tomorrow, we could finally say we are past [the peak],” he tweeted, adding that there will be a “plateau” before the contagion curve starts falling.
Civil Protection Agency chief Angelo Borrelli reported 1,590 new recoveries from the virus, the highest daily figure on record, bringing the total to 14,620.
One of the people back in shape was Nicola Zingaretti, head of the co-ruling Democratic Party (PD), who had announced testing positive for the novel coronavirus on March 7.
In the northern Lombardy region, the worst hit by the outbreak, the number of active cases on Monday fell by almost 400 to 25,006.
It was a first since the start of the epidemic.
Italy‘s outbreak, the first and largest in Europe, began on February 20, in Lombardy.
To limit the spread of the virus, the government imposed a national lockdown on March 10, which expires on April 3.
“There will certainly be an extension” of the measures, Professor Franco Locatelli, head of the Supreme Health Council, said at the civil protection press conference.
Encouraging contagion data “gives us a reason to continue making these sacrifices,” Locatelli said.
“We are going in the right direction and we must not in any way change our strategy.”
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said later that the government’s scientific advisors, including Locatelli, had recommended the extension of “all containement measures at least until Easter.”
“The government will move in this direction,” he added.
Easter falls on April 12 this year.
Italians are under strict orders to stay home unless for work, emergencies and unavoidable errands like buying food and medicines or taking the dog out.
According to COVID–19&Mobility, a Facebook page which tracks people’s movements based on mobile phone data, nearly 80 percent of people did not leave their residence Sunday.