ROME, July 12 (Xinhua) — A series of small local outbreaks and a growing trickle of foreign arrivals are starting to nudge the number of coronavirus infections in Italy higher, according to information released by the Ministry of Health Sunday, although rates still remain a small fraction of the highs recorded in March and April.
There were a total of 234 new cases reported in Italy over the last 24 hours, up from 188 a day earlier. It was the seventh time in ten days there were at least 200 new infections in Italy, a benchmark reached just twice in the ten days before.
To be sure, rates are far below the peaks of earlier during the pandemic, when Italy saw at least 4,000 new infections 23 times in a 25-day span between March 18 and April 12.
According to Italian media reports, isolated clusters of infections and arrivals from outside Italy’s borders — or a combination of the two factors — are the elements keeping infection rates from falling further.
The southern Italian region of Calabria, for example, has had two or fewer new cases of the coronavirus 22 times in the last 30 days, but new cases jumped to 28 on Sunday, due to infections among the 70 refugees who docked in the region on migrant rescue ships.
The jump in new cases was enough for Calabria’s President, Jole Santelli, to call on the government to use navy vessels to test migrants for the virus before allowing them onto the Italian mainland, according to the Gazzetta del Sud, a major southern Italian newspaper.
This comes days after Luca Zaia, the president of the northern Italian region of Veneto, said regional authorities would issue fines of at least 1,000 euros (1,130 U.S. dollars) for those found disobeying coronavirus health rules and jail time for anyone infected in the region who refused to be hospitalized. The rules came in the wake of the arrival of an infected man from Serbia, who infected at least ten people and required the quarantine of 100 others.
Earlier in the week, Italy unilaterally closed its borders to arrivals from 13 countries including Armenia, Bangladesh, and Brazil, where coronavirus infections are on the rise.
According to Il Messaggero, a Rome daily newspaper, the reopening of Italy’s borders to European travelers starting June 3 has resulted in at least 1,000 new cases of coronavirus nationally. In some parts of the country, most notably the southern region of Apulia, the only active cases are from foreign travelers.
But the new problems are not limited to foreign arrivals.
The central Italian region of Emilia-Romagna that includes the city of Bologna registered 71 new cases in the last 24 hours, most connected to a national delivery service based in the region.
Lazio, the region that includes the Italian capital, reported 20 new cases Sunday, mostly in the periphery of the city.
Lombardy, the region that includes Milan, remained the hardest-hit region with 77 new cases reported Sunday. Lombardy, which includes around one-sixth of Italy’s total population, has nearly 50 percent of the country’s overall coronavirus death toll and around 40 percent of the country’s total infections.
Despite the recent problems, the virus is largely under control in Italy, which on Sunday recorded just nine deaths from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, two more than the previous day but the seventh time in ten days there were fewer than 20 COVID-19 deaths in Italy. The country, which registered a high of 969 deaths in late March, has not seen more than 50 deaths in one day in nearly a month.
The official number of active infections was 13,179, down by 124 in the last day. The number of patients in intensive-care units rose by one to 68 in the last day,
The number of recovered COVID-19 patients rose by 349 to 194,928. With the nine new deaths, that total inched closer to the grim 35,000 milestone, at 34,954, still among the highest mortality totals in the world despite the recent slowdown. Enditem