Roundup: Active COVID-19 cases trending downward, deaths up in Italy

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ROME, April 1 (Xinhua) — The coronavirus pandemic in Italy is entering a new, deadlier phase, with the death toll climbing amid a downward trend in active infections, according to a report released Thursday by the GIMBE Foundation, a scientific research entity.

Ministry of Health data showed 501 deaths Thursday from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. It was the third time in eight days the national single-day fatalities surpassed 500.

On Thursday, the ministry reported 23,649 new cases, around 1,200 more than a day earlier. The daily infections climbed above 20,000, a level topped just two times over the first two months of the year.

But according to the GIMBE Foundation, the overall trend is downward in recent weeks, with weekly infections dropping 5.9 percent for the week ending Tuesday, the second consecutive weekly decline after five consecutive weeks of increases. Even as the infection rate declined, the weekly death toll rose 4.2 percent compared to the previous week, the foundation reported.

Patients in intensive-care units rose to a similar degree, climbing 4.8 percent compared to the previous week, according to GIMBE’s calculations. For Thursday, the number of intensive-care-unit patients totaled 3,681. The foundation warned that hospitals in 13 of Italy’s 20 regions were near capacity for intensive-care patients.

“For the second consecutive week, we have seen a slow descent in the number of new cases,” foundation President Nino Cartabellotta said in a statement. “But there are still too many regional differences to be complacent.”

Cartabellotta also warned against relaxing health rules put in place and said that the country should focus its immunization efforts on the elderly and vulnerable, which he said “was the only way to safely reopen the country.”

Other coronavirus indicators were similarly mixed. The ministry indicated that 20,712 Italians were declared cured of COVID-19 over the last 24 hours, not quite matching the number of new infections. That meant the overall number of active cases in Italy rose to 563,479. That total has remained largely flat in recent days, and it remains well below its all-time high of more than 800,000 active cases in November.

The country’s vaccine rollout, which had been plagued by delivery shortfalls and distribution problems since its earliest days, is working better, according to media reports. On Thursday, the number of Italian residents who had received at least one vaccine shot stood at 10.32 million. The number of fully vaccinated residents was 3.24 million as of Thursday, or around 5.4 percent of the country’s population. Enditem

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