ROME – The rate of infections in Italy, which has the world’s highest death toll from the coronavirus pandemic, fell for the fourth consecutive day, Italian health officials said on Wednesday.
More than 7,500 people have died in Italy, well over twice as many as have died in China (3,163), where the virus originated.
While new infections are still being registered, they have fallen steadily for four days in a row, leading to hopes that the country could soon start to overcome the disease.
Agostino Miozzo, the deputy to the chief of Italy’s Civil Protection Agency, Angelo Borrelli, who was unable to attend the daily briefing after showing symptoms of fever earlier on Wednesday, said the country was at a crucial stage in its fight to overcome the peak of transmissions and beat the disease.
“We are in a phase of apparent stability, we consider that the number of new infections is consistent with the trend of the spread that the virus has had in the country,” Miozzo said.
But he insisted that Italians must still follow the lockdown orders that have been in place across the country since March 9.
“It is still essential to maintain the indications that we have been giving for weeks: comply with the regulations and don’t let your guard down.”
There were over 57,520 active cases of the coronavirus, 3,491 more than on Tuesday, and 9,362 people have recovered, including over 1,000 in the past 24 hours.
The most affected area is still the northern region of Lombardy, with 32,346 total infections and 4,474 deaths.
While Italy remains Europe’s coronavirus hotspot, Spain is also following a similar pattern, as deaths there surpassed those registered in China.
All nations in Europe have imposed severe restrictions on people’s movements and socializing, although to varying degrees, as not every country has imposed a total lockdown like in Italy or Spain.
In Germany, where all non-essential businesses, universities and schools have closed, only 186 deaths have been registered out of over 37,000 cases.
Neighboring France, meanwhile, which has taken more drastic prevention measures than Germany, has fewer cases (22,654) but a much higher fatality rate with 1,100 deaths.
In a report published on Wednesday, Europe’s Center for Disease Control (ECDC) warned that the capacity of the continent’s national healthcare systems being overwhelmed by the outbreak remained “high.”
It said that the risk of widespread transmission across other European nations in the coming weeks was “moderate if effective mitigation measures are in place” but warned of a “very high” risk if insufficient measures are taken.
Meanwhile, the president of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, called on the EU’s member states to “protect companies and infrastructure in this crisis against foreign takeovers.”
In a video statement, Von der Leyen said that Europe “will remain open to foreign direct investment but we need to balance it with our responsibility to protect” European companies.