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Italy worries about new coronavirus wave as infections inch higher

Published : 13 Aug 2020, 22:49

  DF News Desk

Restaurant staff wait for customers in Rome, Italy, Aug. 4, 2020. File Photo Xinhua.

Fears that Italy might be at the start of a new and more manageable wave of coronavirus infections were on the rise in the Italian media Thursday as the infection rate for the virus continued to creep higher, reported Xinhua.

Nationally, the Ministry of Health said 522 new coronavirus infections were recorded in Italy Thursday. It was the sixth time in eight days there were 400 or more infections. Before that, the infection rate had not topped 400 since June 5.

Still, infections remained far below their peaks from late March and early April, when new infections topped 5,000 ten times in 11 days.

Pierluigi Lopalco, an epidemiologist and head of the coronavirus task force for the southern region of Apulia, told the Rome-based newspaper Il Messaggero he was cautiously nervous about the latest trends, though he did not predict a return to the dark period in March and April.

"I think that what we have seen in July and so far in August could be the trigger for a second wave, the same kind of trigger we failed to detect effectively back in February," Lopalco said. "But the wave we could be facing is like one from a big storm. If we continue to contain the virus, the wave probably won't develop into another tsunami."

According to media reports, a rising percentage of the new cases have come from foreign visitors -- either tourists or refugees -- rather than from community transmission among residents. For example, the news portal Roma Today reported Thursday that of the 36 new cases of the virus registered in the region of Lazio a day earlier, 22 were from people arriving from abroad.

Italy began opening its borders to tourists starting in early June, though new arrivals have so far been a fraction of their formal levels.

Italy also announced earlier this week it would start carrying out instant health checks on arrivals from Croatia, Greece, Malta, and Spain -- all countries where the virus is spreading faster than in Italy.

At least three of Italy's 20 regions have issued unilateral quarantine rules for travelers arriving from those countries, while one of them -- the southern region of Campania, which includes the city of Naples -- is requiring residents returning from any foreign destination to be tested within 24 hours or their arrival or face fines.

But while infections and worries of a new coronavirus wave are inching higher, other indicators remain largely under control.

The national daily death toll for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, has topped ten only twice so far this month, and it has not been above 50 since June 18. Those totals are well below the peaks of March and April when many hundreds of Italian residents were losing their lives to COVID-19 each day.

The number of patients in intensive care units has also remained low, though it has stopped declining as it did for most of June and July. On Thursday, Italy had 55 patients under intensive care, an increase of two from the previous day.

All told, as of Thursday the country has registered 252,235 total coronavirus cases, with recoveries totaling 202,923, an increase of 226 compared to Wednesday.