COVID-19 claims over 15,000 lives in Italy, ICUs see first drop of patients

Rome, April 5
The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed over 15,000 lives in locked-down Italy, as the total number of infections, fatalities and recoveries has risen to 124,632, according to the fresh data released by the country's Civil Protection Department on Saturday.

Speaking during a televised press conference, Civil Protection Department Chief Angelo Borrelli confirmed that there were 2,886 new active coronavirus infections compared to Friday, bringing the nationwide total to 88,274 cases, Xinhua reported.

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Of those infected, 29,010 are hospitalized, including 3,994 in intensive care, and the rest are quarantined at home, Borrelli said.

"Today for the first time we have a very significant element to report, which is that the number of patients in intensive care has decreased by 74 individuals," Borrelli said.

"This is important news because it gives our hospitals some breathing room, and it is the first negative number since we began managing the emergency," he said.

Borrelli added that there were 1,238 additional recoveries compared to Friday, bringing that total to 20,996.

The death toll on Saturday was 681, bringing the total to 15,362 fatalities since the pandemic first broke out in northern Italy on Feb. 21.

"The number of daily fatalities has been constantly decreasing" from a high of 969 deaths on March 27, Borrelli pointed out.

Among the latest coronavirus victims was a state police officer who served on Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's security detail.

"Today Giorgio Guastamacchia...aged just 51, passed away," the prime minister wrote on Facebook on Saturday. "He had been recently hospitalized in Rome after contracting the COVID-19. This is a time of great sorrow for all of us who knew him."

In an interview with RAI News 24 public broadcaster earlier in the day, Health Minister Roberto Speranza said that "we are still in the thick of battle, so we must not underestimate (the situation)."

"Right now the path of social distancing is the true weapon we have at our disposal," Speranza said.

The minister also underlined the importance of scientific research in terms of vaccine and therapy.

"But at the moment, the truth is that there is no vaccine and there is no proven therapy, so the true path, the true solution right now is social distancing, which is still the only weapon that all the governments in the world are using to reduce the contagion," Speranza emphasized.

About the life after the pandemic, the health minister said: "The premise for the economic recovery of our country is victory in this ongoing health care battle -- the two elements cannot be placed in contradiction to each other."

"Without this health care victory, there can be no economic and social recovery," Speranza stressed.

He was echoed by Extraordinary Commissioner for the Coronavirus Emergency Domenico Arcuri, who warned citizens in a press conference "to abstain from thinking that the time has already come to... go back to normal behavior."

"For now, nothing has changed," he emphasized.

Arcuri, who is also the CEO of Invitalia, a national business incentives agency owned by the Ministry of Economy, is in charge of ramping up production and distribution of medical supplies, bolstering the national health care system, and managing economic support for families, workers, and businesses affected by the coronavirus emergency.