Italy sees second successive drop in coronavirus deaths, global toll surpasses 15,000

Italy sees second successive drop in coronavirus deaths, global deaths surpass 15,000
Infections have been reported by 192 countries outside China. Photo: Reuters
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Rome: Italy on Monday reported a second successive drop in daily deaths and infections from a coronavirus that has nevertheless claimed more than 6,000 lives in a month.

The Mediterranean country has now seen its daily fatalities come down from a world record 793 on Saturday to 651 on Sunday and 601 on Monday.

The number of new declared infections fell from 6,557 on Saturday to 4,789 on Monday.

The top medical officer for Milan's devastated Lombardy region appeared on television smiling for the first time in many weeks.

"We cannot declare victory just yet," Giulio Gallera said.

"But there is light at the end of the tunnel." Italy's National Health Institute (ISS) chief Silvio Brusaferro was more guarded.

"These are positive number but I do not have the courage to firmly state that there is a downward trend," the medical expert told reporters.

Italians will desperately hope that weeks of living under a lockdown in which even a jog in the park was eventually banned was the price worth paying for beating back the new disease.

Saturday's record toll was followed by a late-night address to the nation in which Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the additional closure of "non-essential" factories.

His government also banned travel to help a country that turned into the new epicentre of the pandemic last week get through a critical stretch in which restrictions are supposed to finally show results.

"Now more than ever, everyone's commitment is needed," Health Minister Roberto Speranza said after Monday's figures came out.

Italy's toll now stands at 6,077 -- more than that of China and third-placed Spain combined.

Italy has sacrificed its economy and liberties by closing and banning almost everything to halt the spread of a virus the government views as an existential threat.

The nation has rallied around its exhausted doctors and tried to deal with life under a state of emergency with humour and grace.

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Entire city blocks have organised balcony parties with nightly DJs. There have been singalongs and synchronised rounds of applause.

But Italians' nerves were clearly starting to fray and the pushback on social media against the ever-changing rules and tightening regulations was getting strong.

Twitter posts went viral ridiculing mayors and regional chiefs who threatened to jail joggers and fine people for walking their dogs too far from their homes.

The government's new partial ban of seemingly random industries added to an air of confusion in the face of a disease Conte has called Italy's biggest disaster since World War II.

Auto part makers were allowed to stay open but steel mills were shut. News stands could still operate but book stores could not.

The reality is that Conte's team is running out of things to close or ban. Other nations are also watching the Italian numbers to see if Conte's ban-everything tactics work.

Italy is on the frontline of a war against a disease being fought by means that currently restrict freedoms and devastate economies.

Some are starting to openly ask if this price is too high -- even as the global death toll soars.

Officials pleaded with the nation of 60 million -- people accustomed to celebrating life outdoors deep into the night -- to sacrifice individual liberties for the common good for two weeks.

The initial restrictions placed on the northern epicentre of the pandemic around Milan expired on Sunday and the national measures are set to end on Wednesday.

Conte indicated last week that he might need to extend the restrictions indefinitely.

His decision is expected within days.

"If everyone -- and I stress everyone -- respects our bans, we will emerge from this very difficult test first," Conte said on Monday.

German state to take in Italian virus patients

Hospitals in the German state of Saxony will take on at least six Italian coronavirus patients who are unable to receive treatment in their own country, state premier Michael Kretschmer has said.

"The Italian government asked us a few days ago whether we could help by taking care of patients who are not being taken care of in Italy," Kretschmer said on Monday.

Following consultation with doctors over hospital capacity in the eastern German state, Saxony has agreed to welcome six Italian patients to hospitals in the cities of Dresden and Leipzig, he added.

"In Italy they are now making an ethically very difficult decision... choosing six people to be put in the aeroplane," said the state premier.

Kretschmer said that the treatment of Italian patients would be a chance for doctors in Saxony to learn about the novel coronavirus, and also a sign of solidarity.

Germany has registered over 22,000 cases according to the latest figures from the Robert Koch Institute for public health.

Saxony is one of the lesser affected of the country's 16 states, with only 658 cases so far.

Worldwide coronavirus deaths exceed 15,000

More than 351,300 people have been infected by the novel coronavirus across the world and 15,339 have died, according to a Reuters tally.

Infections have been reported by 192 countries outside China.

Meanwhile, the pandemic of disease caused by the coronavirus is accelerating, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Monday, with more than 3,00,000 cases now recorded and infections reported from nearly every country worldwide.

While it took 67 days from the first reported case to reach the first 1,00,000 cases of COVID-19, it took only 11 days for the second 1,00,000 cases, and just four days for the third 1,00,000 cases, WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said.

"But we are not prisoners to statistics. We're not helpless bystanders. We can change the trajectory of this pandemic," Tedros told an online briefing for more than 300 journalists.

He called for global political commitment to change the trajectory of the pandemic, urging countries to take both defensive and attacking measures.

"Asking people to stay at home and other social distancing measures are an important way of slowing down the spread of the virus and buying time, but they are defensive measures," he said.

"To win we need to attack the virus with aggressive and targeted tactics - testing every suspect case, isolating and caring for every confirmed cases and tracing and quarantining every close contact."

(With inputs from AFP, Reuters, PTI)

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