Italy saw a smaller daily increase in new coronavirus cases for the second consecutive day, officials said Monday warning that it was too early to know if the worst is behind the country with the second largest workload in the world.
The data released by the Italian civil protection agency showed 4,789 new cases compared to the previous day, almost 700 less than the daily increase of 5,560 new cases reported on Sunday.
Even the death toll has not increased much. On Monday, just over 600 viruses were registered in Italy, compared to 651 on Sunday.
Italy has been anxious to see daily numbers for new cases and deaths decrease as it begins a third week under a national blockade and its health system struggles under the weight of the world’s largest COVID-19 outbreak outside the China.
As of Monday, Italy has recorded a total of 59,138 virus cases compared to China’s 81,496 and the country is about to have twice as many deaths soon.
It was only Saturday when the Italian authorities reported another series of one-day peaks since the epidemic that swept northern Italy for the first time since last month: 793 other deaths and 6,557 new cases.
Health authorities have warned that a few more days will pass before knowing if Italy is at the beginning of a positive trend.
“These are crucial days. Woe to anyone who drops their guard,” said Health Minister Roberto Speranza of Monday’s numbers. “Now more than ever everyone’s commitment is needed ..”
A senior national health official, Silvio Brusaferro, resisted being overly optimistic, stating that the improvements recorded on Monday were due to actions taken earlier in the month, not in recent days.
“We need more consecutive results to confirm the trend, to be more certain that we are in a favorable situation,” said Brusaferro.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever or cough. But for some older people and people with existing health problems, it can cause more serious illnesses, including pneumonia. Over 100,000 people have recovered, including nearly 60,000 in China and over 7,000 in Italy.
A government decree that came into effect on March 10 prohibits people from leaving home except to go to work, shop for food or other necessities, exercise or take dogs for short periods of time or carry out essential tasks such as care of an elderly relative. In the Lombardy region, where the epidemic began, there are even more stringent restrictions.
In Milan, the capital of Lombardy. which is by far the most affected region in Italy, regional health officials were moderately optimistic after the daily increases in both positive test results and hospitalizations of new COVID-19 patients were smaller. But they expressed renewed concern about the urgent need for additional ICU beds.
Lombard health commissioner Giulio Gallera said Monday that the number of cases increased to 29,761, with a daily increase of 1,555 compared to the daily jump of 3,200 recorded on Saturday. The cities of Bergamo and Milan both showed signs of improvement, but the number of cases has increased significantly in Brescia, another hard-hit Lombard city that recorded 588 new cases on Monday.
“Maybe this is the first positive day of this very difficult month,” said Gallera. “This is not the time to relax. We have to be even more consistent.”
The northern region has requisitioned a 300-room hotel for people who need to self-quarantine and are unable to distance themselves from family members at home. The governor of Lombardy signed an ordinance on Saturday that requires all guests to leave hotels within 72 hours to vacate their accommodation for possible use in the event of a public health emergency.
Colleen Barry contributed to Soave, in Italy
This version has been corrected to show that the national blockade in Italy entered into force on March 10, not March 3.