Coronavirus infections in Italy have yet to reach their peak, the head of the country’s national health institute said on Friday, as officials warned that lockdown restrictions would have to be extended beyond April 3, Trend reports citing Reuters.
Italy has reported 8,215 deaths from the illness, more than anywhere else in the world, while confirmed cases total 80,539, with latest data from Thursday showing no let up in new infections, stifling hopes of a possible turnaround.
“We haven’t reached the peak and we haven’t passed it,” the chief of the Superior Health Institute, Silvio Brusaferro, told reporters, adding that there were however “signs of a slowdown” in the numbers of people becoming infected.
“When the descent begins, how steep it is will depend on our behavior,” Brusaferro said, referring to how strictly Italians will continue to respect a government-imposed lockdown.
Italy was the first Western country to introduce swingeing restrictions on movement after uncovering the outbreak five weeks ago. It has progressively tightened the curbs, banning all non-essential activities until at least next Friday.
However, Franco Locatelli, who heads the council which advises the government on health matters, told reporters this deadline would need extending.
“If I had to decide using today’s data, I believe it is inevitable these measures will be prolonged,” he said.
Schools and universities were amongst the first places to be shut down, closing their doors nationwide on March 5. Education Minister Lucia Azzolina said on Friday that the current date for the order to be lifted, April 3, would have to be extended.
“Our aim is to ensure that students return to school only when we are completely sure that it is safe. Health is the priority,” she told state broadcaster RAI.