ITALY has unveiled a plan to end its month-long lockdown after daily deaths fell to their lowest in two weeks.
The country has been the hardest hit by coronavirus in Europe, with nearly 129,000 confirmed cases and 15,887 deaths.
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But yesterday saw Italy report its lowest daily Covid-19 death toll since March 19, at 525, after dipping below Britain’s for the first time the day before.
The number of patients in badly stretched intensive care units also fell for a second day running, while new cases saw their smallest rise in five days, increasing by 4,316.
And in a sign of hope for the UK, Italian health chiefs are now discussing how to go about lifting lockdown restrictions under “phase two” of the country’s coronavirus strategy.
Silvio Brusaferro, head of the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, Italy’s top health institute, said: “The curve has reached a plateau and begun to descend.
“It is a result that we have to achieve day after day.
“If this is confirmed, we need to start thinking about the second phase and keep down the spread of this disease.”
There are difficult months ahead. Our task is to create the conditions to live with the virus.”
Health Minister Roberto Speranza outlined a series of measures, including more testing and a beefed up local health system, intended to allow a gradual easing of restrictions.
“There are difficult months ahead. Our task is to create the conditions to live with the virus,” at least until a vaccine is developed, he told La Repubblica.
The national lockdown, strictly limiting people’s movements and freezing all non-essential economic activity, will officially last until at least April 13.
But it is widely expected to be extended, and Speranza said it was too early to say when it could be lifted.
The minister said he had issued a note outlining five principles around which the government planned to manage the so-called “phase two” of the emergency – when lockdown restrictions begin to be eased but before a full return to normal conditions.
He said social distancing would have to remain, with wider use of individual protection devices such as face masks.
And local health systems would be strengthened, to allow a faster and more efficient treatment of suspected Covid-19 cases, he added.
Testing and “contact tracing” would also be extended, including with the use of smartphone apps and other technology, while a network of hospitals dedicated solely to treating corona patients would be set up, he said.
But despite the light at the end of the tunnel, officials were keen for Italians not to get complacent.
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Angelo Borelli, head of the Civil Protection department, told a daily briefing yesterday: “Don’t lower our guard, stay at home.”
There were also positive signs elsewhere in Europe over the weekend.
France reported a slowing daily death toll over the last 24 hours, and Germany its fourth straight day with a drop in new confirmed cases.
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