Italy’s coronavirus toll tops 10,000

Bloomberg | Updated on March 28, 2020

Cemetery workers and funeral agency workers in protective masks transport a coffin of a person who died from coronavirus disease (COVID-19), into a cemetery in Bergamo, Italy.   -  REUTERS/Flavio Lo Scalzo

March 28

Italy’s coronavirus deaths surpassed 10,000 on Saturday even as the contagions spread remained substantially stable.

Europe’s hardest-hit country had 889 new fatalities in the last 24 hours, health authorities said, with a slight decline compared to Friday’s record. New cases rose marginally to 5,974, bringing the total count of patients in the country to 92,472.

The government is set to extend its drastic containment measures until the middle of April and will more than double the amount of financial stimulus for the country’s paralysed economy.

Italy’s virus trend shows the curve is now entirely in its linear phase and no longer exponential, with a daily increase in total cases of around 7%, Lorenzo Pregliasco, co-founder of researcher YouTrend, said in a phone interview. Mortality remains very high, although it’s difficult to estimate a correct data rate because the base of the total cases is probably very underestimated.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is set to prolong a near-total lockdown for two weeks beyond the current April 3 deadline, the Corriere della Sera newspaper reported. Some minimal exceptions are being discussed for companies, the newspaper said, adding that the return to normalcy will, in any case, happen only gradually. Education minister Lucia Azzolina has already said schools won’t reopen early next month as initially planned.

Lombardy, the region around Milan which is at the epicentre of Italy’s outbreak, reported 542 deaths on Saturday and 2,117 new cases, according to Lombardy’s top health official Giulio Gallera.

Italy is wrestling with the worlds deadliest outbreak even as the contagion shows initial signs of a slowdown after three weeks in which economic activity halted almost completely. The government is preparing a second round of stimulus after a 25 billion-euro ($28 billion) package approved this month, even as it’s locked in negotiations with European partners on further joint fiscal support.

Conte said in an interview published Saturday by Il Sole 24 Ore that new measures to be approved next month will bring Italy’s overall stimulus well above the threshold of 50 billion euros to counter the countrys’ dramatic recession.

Confidence among Italian businesses crashed this month across all sectors, with Italy’s gross domestic product heading for a contraction of 6.5 percentage points in 2020, according to research group Prometeia. Electricity consumption continues to fall, along with economic activity.

Deputy Finance Minister Laura Castelli said in an interview with La Stampa that Italy’s overall financial commitment could rise to as much as 100 billion euros, still well short of the 300 billion euros and 750 billion euros mobilized by France and Germany, respectively. The governments April measures could be worth as much as 50 billion euros, double the size of the first round of stimulus, according to Il Messaggero.

Meanwhile, signs of social unrest and economic distress are on the rise in Italy’s poor southern regions.

A Lidl supermarket in Palermo, Sicily, was raided by people who refused to pay for their shopping, according to reports on several media. The police are now patrolling entrances to the city’s largest supermarkets.

Published on March 28, 2020

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