Italy posts 837 more dead, contagion slows

Everything will pass, a banner says on a balcony in Rome amid Italy's coronavirus lockdown.
Everything will pass, a banner says on a balcony in Rome amid Italy's coronavirus lockdown.

Italy has reported 837 more deaths linked to the COVID-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus, but the spread of the epidemic in the country continues to slow down.

With the latest daily bulletin from the Civil Protection Agency on Tuesday, Italy's death toll climbed to 12,428, by far the highest figure in the world.

Total infections, including recoveries and deaths, reached 105,792, a 4.0-per-cent increase from Monday.

It was the lowest daily variation registered since the start of the outbreak.

"We are in a situation in which we have reached a kind of plateau" in the contagion curve, Silvio Brusaferro, head of the National Health Institute, said.

"Reaching the plateau does not mean that we have conquered the peak and now that's it. It means we have to start the descent," he added, renewing calls for no let-up in national lockdown measures.

Active cases, excluding deaths and recoveries, were up by 2.8 per cent to 77,635, while the number of patients who have beaten the virus rose by 7.6 per cent to 15,729.

On Tuesday, public buildings across Italy had their flags at half mast to commemorate the victims of the epidemic.

The Vatican did the same with its flags in a sign of solidarity.

Italy's outbreak, the first and largest in Europe, began on February 20.

The country has been under lockdown for most of March, and the restrictions are due to remain at least until Easter, or April 12.

Italians are under strict orders to stay home unless for work, emergencies and unavoidable errands like buying food and medicines or taking the dog out.

However, children were set to be granted some fresh air. According to press reports, the Interior Ministry issued new guidelines allowing one parent to take them out for short walks near home.

Family Minister Elena Bonetti, deputy Health Minister Sandra Zampa and Alberto Villani, head of the Italian Society of Paediatrics, had called for the concession in a joint statement.

Doctor Roberto Bernabei, a government scientific advisor, said in a press conference that the new guidelines would grant "the right to (enjoy some) sun and spring".

Australian Associated Press