Rome, 4 August 2020 (dpa/MIA) – Six times as many people as officially recorded could have been infected with the coronavirus in Italy, according to a study published by the government on Tuesday.
The study, which was conducted by health authorities and the statistics bureau Istat, found that 1.5 million people, or 2.5 per cent, of Italy‘s population could have developed coronavirus antibodies.
“The number of 2.5 per cent seems low, but can turn into something problematic if we are not careful,” said Carlo Blangiardo, head of Instat.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said the imposed lockdown measures had been important, and the government would continue with its “cautious and strict” policy stance.
The study results are based on tests of 64,660 people, who were chosen as representative samples, between May 15 and July 15.
According to data by the United States’ Johns Hopkins University, only 248,000 people were officially infected with the coronavirus in Italy and 35,000 people died.
Several experts had already expected the real infection numbers to be much higher, as many people had not realized they had the virus and therefore had not been tested.
The study confirms that many people who tested positive did not show any symptoms: 27.3 per cent of respondents with antibodies were asymptomatic, with women and men affected equally.
Children below the age of five and adults above 85 were less likely to have the virus due to being more sheltered, otherwise the virus touched all other age groups more or less equally, the study found.
The risk of infection was found to be highest in families, as 41.7 per cent of people living with a coronavirus-positive person later developed antibodies as well.
The study also shows there are drastic regional differences with regard to the antibodies.
In Lombardy, a northern region that was one of the epicentres of the first outbreak, 7.5 per cent of people had antibodies, while in southern Italy the number stood at less than 1 per cent.
The number of new cases has drastically declined in the Mediterranean country in recent months. On Monday, Italy reported 159 new daily infections, compared to up to 6,000 during the high tide of the first wave in March.