Italy has recorded the highest one-day official coronavirus death toll since the first case was detected in China late last year.
On Wednesday the country reported 475 new deaths from Novid-18, just a day after it looked like Italian coronavirus infections had started to slow.
Italy’s Civil Protection Agency announced 4,207 new cases of Covid-19 today, bringing the the total up from 31,506 to 35,713.
Today’s news comes amid hopes the Italian lockdown had slowed the spread of the pandemic.
Hospital workers prepare coffins at the Ponte San Pietro hospital in Bergamo on Tuesday, in the province of Lombardy which has been the worst-affected region of Italy
Medics and paramedics from China arrived in Milan on Wednesday. The 37-strong team of doctors and paramedics will be deployed to hospitals in Italy’s most affected areas, bringing with them 20 tons of equipment to combat coronavirus
The previous record high of 368 deaths was also recorded in Italy, on Sunday.
Today’s figures mean the number of people in Italy to be infected rests at 35,713, of those 4,025 patients have recovered and 2,978 have died.
‘The main thing is, do not give up,’ Italian National Institute of Health chief Silvio Brusaferro said in a nationally televised press conference.
‘It will take a few days before we see the benefits’ of containment measures, said Brusaferro.
‘We must maintain these measures to see their effect, and above all to protect the most vulnerable.’
Italian coronavirus infections had slowed in recent days after the country took drastic quarantine measures to stop the spread of the pathogen.
The number of daily cases in Italy was fairly stagnant at the start of this week, settling down at around 3,500 new patients per day.
Tuesday’s increase in the overall tally was 12.6 per cent, the second-lowest rate since the virus began spreading in Italy on February 21 – offering hope that the lockdown is bearing fruit even as the death toll rose by 345 to 2,503.
Italians have been ordered to stay indoors, with schools and universities shut, shops closed except for grocery stores and pharmacies, and heavy restrictions on travel.
This table shows the number of new coronavirus infections in Italy for every day since the virus began spreading there on Febraury 21. The numbers have flatlined in recent days, settling down at around 3,500 new cases every 24 hours
People singing from their balcony in Palermo during the lockdown in Italy, which is starting to show signs of bearing fruit
A deserted area outside the Colosseum in Rome, which is usually heaving with tourists, after Italians were ordered to stay inside unless necessary
Italy rushes 10,000 new doctors into service, scrapping their final exams
Italy will rush 10,000 student doctors into service, scrapping their final exams, in an effort to help the struggling health service cope with the coronavirus.
University Minister Gaetano Manfredi said the government would let this year’s medicine graduates start work some eight or nine months ahead of schedule and waive the mandatory exams they normally sit before qualifying.
‘This means immediately releasing into the National Health System the energy of about 10,000 doctors, which is fundamental to dealing with the shortage that our country is suffering,’ he said in a statement.
The graduates will be sent to work in general practitioners’ clinics and at old peoples’ homes, freeing up more experienced colleagues who will be sent to the rapidly filling hospitals.
Over three weeks, 1,135 people have needed intensive care in Lombardy, the northern region hardest hit.
The region has only 800 intensive care beds, according to Giacomo Grasselli, head of the intensive care unit at Milan’s Policlinico hospital.
Authorities have been working to set up hundreds of intensive care beds in a specially created facility in the Fiera Milano exhibition center, but are still waiting for sufficient respirators and qualified personnel.
Experts warn that there is a lag time between health measures being taken and their effects becoming conspicuous.
That suggests the Italian lockdown imposed last week could now be starting to have a noticeable impact.
Infectious disease and computer experts at the University of Genoa estimate the new daily infection cases will peak in Italy between March 23 and March 25.
Italy’s lockdown is due to end on march 25, although schools and public institutions are set to remain closed until at least April 3.
‘Reaching the peak doesn’t mean you’re in the clear,’ University of Genoa professor Giorgio Sestili cautioned.
‘It only means that the epidemic has started to slow down and that – a few days later – you will have reached the saturation point of intensive care cases.’
The number of new infections in the last four days has been fairly stagnant with 3,497 on Saturday, 3,590 on Sunday, 3,233 on Monday and 3,526 on Tuesday.
The percentage increase in cases has been below 20 per cent for the last few days, falling to 12.6 per cent yesterday.
The signs of a slowing infection rate will be a relief to doctors on the front line of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak, who have described ‘catastrophic’ scenes in hospitals which are creaking with the sheer volume of cases.
A new Oxford University study suggests that Italy may be particularly vulnerable because it has such an old population and the elderly come into frequent contact with the young.
Italy’s population is the second-oldest in the world, behind only Japan.
Oxford researchers said it was common for young adults in rural areas to live with their parents and grandparents but to commute into cities, such as Milan, to work and socialise.
Young people may have been picking up the virus while travelling and brought it home without realising they were ill, the Oxford researchers said.
The study is another warning to Britain, which has an ageing population. Older people are known to be more likely to die of Covid-19 if they are infected with the virus.
Hospital workers in face masks stand over trolleys at the Ponte San Pietro hospital in Bergamo on Tuesday as they prepare coffins
A family who were relaxing on a lawn were ordered to move by Italian police in San Donato Milanese near the city of Milan on Tuesday, after they flouted the country’s coronavirus quarantine rules
Medical staff collect a patient from an ambulance at the second Covid-19 hospital in Rome, Italy, which is fighting the biggest virus outbreak outside of China
Couple caught having sex in a car in Milan are arrested for breaching coronavirus lockdown
A couple caught having sex in a car were arrested for breaching coronavirus quarantine rules in Italy.
The 23-year-old Egyptian man and 40-year-old Tunisian woman were caught in the act by a police officer on the outskirts of Milan on Monday.
Quite apart from decency laws, the pair chose a particularly bad time for their roadside fling, with authorities on alert for breaches of the virus lockdown.
The pair were accused of ignoring a quarantine rule which bans two people from being in the front or back of a vehicle together, according to news agency ANSA.
It is not clear whether the couple will face further action, but authorities have been keeping a wary eye on all road vehicles in order to enforce a ban on travel.
Italians are only allowed outside to buy food, give or receive medical care, or travel to work if absolutely necessary.
Despite the ample opportunities for indoor entertainment, the couple were caught in the act on a road in Mecenate near Milan which has been heavily hit by the outbreak.
Doctors in Italy have told of critically ill patients who should be in intensive care but are instead slumped in busy wards because of a woeful lack of equipment and staff.
Worryingly, the doctors who have spoken out are from state-of-the-art hospitals which typically provide excellent care but were caught flat-footed by the virus which is stretching their capacity to breaking point.
Medics are struggling to keep pace with the escalating number of cases, including those treating patients at the advanced Papa Giovanni XXIII Hospital in the wealthy city of Bergamo in the virus-plagued Lombardy region.
The 950-bed hospital has been brought to its knees because of the crisis, with more than 400 of the beds used by coronavirus patients and three of the hospital’s four most senior staff off sick.
Intensive care specialist Mirco Nacoti told the Wall Street Journal: ‘Until three weeks ago, we did everything for every patient.
‘Now we have to choose which patients to put in intensive care. This is catastrophic.’
The hospital’s once rapid emergency response is also at breaking point, with even people reporting heart attacks waiting an hour on the phone because the lines are being bombarded.
Dr Angelo Giupponi, who coordinates Papa Giovanni’s emergency response, said his team takes 2,500 calls daily and brings 1,500 to hospital.
Signalling the team were caught off-guard by the epidemic, he said that ambulance staff have not been trained for such a contagion, and revealed many have become infected after their vehicles became contaminated.
Dispatcher Diego Bianco, a 40-something with no underlying health conditions, even died.
In a sign that Rome is scrambling to react to the outbreak, Dr Sergio Cattaneo said he has seen unused wards outfitted into an intensive care unit in six days.
He also claims a hospital laundry room was converted into a giant stretcher-filled waiting room and a tented field hospital erected outside to test possible new virus patients.
An Italian solider stands guard at an unknown soldier altar in Rome on Wednesday. The country was rocked by more than 400 coronavirus related deaths today, the highest one-day total of any country since the first case was detected in China in late 2019
In a sign that Italy is scrambling to react to the outbreak, Dr Sergio Cattaneo (pictured) said he has seen unused wards outfitted into an intensive care unit in six days
Doctors on the front line of Italy’s coronavirus outbreak have described ‘catastrophic’ scenes in hospitals which are creaking with the sheer volume of cases. Pictured: staff preparing to open a new hospital in Rome
Italy’s outbreak – the worst outside of China – spiralled further today as infections hit 35,713 and the death toll jumped by more than 400 to 2,978. Pictured: Hazmat suited medics in Rome on Tuesday
Dr Cattaneo, head of anesthesiology and intensive care at the public hospital in Brescia in northern Italy, said: ‘What is really shocking – something we had not been able to forecast and brought us to our knees – is the quickness the epidemic spreads.
‘If the spreading of this epidemic is not put under control, it will bring all hospitals to their knees.’
Dr Cattaneo’s new ICU added six more beds to the hospital’s capacity, bringing to 42 the number of ICU beds dedicated to the virus.
Across the Lombardy region, local authorities are pushing ahead with plans to build a 400-bed ICU field hospital at the Milan fairgrounds, even though the civil protection agency has warned that it doesn’t have the ventilators or personnel to staff it, and that time is running out.
‘The secret has been – and this should be a strong message for foreign countries – to act early on this, in order to avoid – like in our case – having to chase after it day after day,’ Cattaneo said.
Brescia, an industrial city of nearly 200,000 east of Milan and the capital of a province of 1.2million, is second only to nearby Bergamo in positive cases in Lombardy, the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe.
Medical director Antonino Marchese holds a press conference before the opening of the third coronavirus Hospital in Casal Palocco, Rome
For the past two days, Brescia actually outpaced Bergamo in the number of new infections, on Tuesday adding another 382 positive tests for a total of 3,300 and suggesting that it is becoming Lombardy’s hottest hot spot.
Indeed, seven of Brescia’s deaths this week were among residents of the same nursing home in Barbariga, where another eight elderly people tested positive, local media reported.
While many people suffer relatively mild symptoms from the virus, the mortality rate in Italy in people over 80 is 22 percent, according to statistics from the National Institutes of Health.
It has been a race against time for Lombardy to add more ICU beds than the patients who need them, not an easy task given that 10 percent of all Italy’s infected require ICU admission, primarily for respiratory help.
Nearly all admitted patients have interstitial pneumonia, a disease in which the lace-like tissue of the lungs’ alveoli become inflamed, leading to progressive respiratory failure, according to Giovanna Perone, director of Brescia’s emergency services.
Italian Medics are struggling to keep pace with the escalating number of cases
‘In the last few days, the number of people arriving here on their own and reporting such symptoms has increased,’ Perone said outside the civil protection tents where walk-in patients are tested and then sent to the hospital’s converted laundry room to await the results.
The onslaught of infections has completely overwhelmed the public health system in Italy’s prosperous north, prompting regional officials to beg retired doctors to come back to work and to accelerate graduation dates for nurses and specialists.
‘I ask you from my heart, we need your competency, your experience, your efficiency,’ said Giulio Gallera, Lombardy’s chief healthcare official. ‘Give us a hand.’
The 25 billion euro aid package the Italian government approved Monday, aimed at bolstering both the health care system and helping businesses, workers and families weather the economic hit, also contains provisions to hire 10,000 more medical personnel.
Already Lombardy this week has received 2,200 responses to a ‘help wanted’ sign on its Facebook page, and hired over 1,000 people, Gallera said.
Italy’s medical personnel also complain about critical shortages of gear, including protective masks and glasses.
Italy’s national federations of doctors and nurses issued a joint alarm Tuesday over the more than 2,300 medical personnel who have been infected, 1,900 of them doctors and nurses.