There were signs of hope in Italy on Sunday as the nation marked its lowest daily death toll from the coronavirus in weeks.
The nation’s government is cautiously anticipating a relaxation of its lockdown after recording a drop in COVID-19 deaths and hospitalizations on Sunday, the AFP reported. The death rate increased again on Monday, but the rate of infections has continued to drop, according to CNBC, as other countries in Europe begin to speculate about easing up on social distancing.
Angelo Borelli, head of Italy’s civil protection service, said it’s not time for that just yet, however. “Don’t lower our guard, stay at home,” he advised at a press briefing this week, according to Reuters.
Hope in Italy
With more than 16,500 deaths in the country as of Monday, Italy has recorded more coronavirus mortalities than any country outside of China, whose official numbers have been questioned. Scenes from the country over the last month or so have sent shockwaves of fear throughout the world, with many seeing Italy’s draconian lockdowns and overwhelmed hospitals as signs of troubles to come.
As the pandemic nears its peak in America, however, Italian officials are appreciating signs that the country’s unprecedented national lockdown — the first of any Western country — is working. Authorities tallied 525 deaths from COVID-19 on Sunday, according to AFP, a more than 20% drop from Saturday and the lowest number since March 19.
Moreover, although deaths from the virus in Italy increased by 636 on Monday, the number of new cases was at a low not seen since March 17, CNBC reported. The trends have Italian officials discussing a gradual easing of quarantine restrictions, with a “phase two” plan in the works to slowly open the economy again and let Italians resume their lives. The plan would have Italians wear masks in public, would seek antibodies testing to identify those who have developed immunity, and would use smartphones to trace contacts between individuals, among other concepts.
“The curve has started its descent and the number of deaths has started to drop,” Italy’s ISS national health institute director Silvio Brusaferro told reporters, according to AFP. “If these data are confirmed [in the coming days], we will have to start thinking about Phase Two.”
Europe nears peak
These trends have also been borne out in Spain and France, the second and third hardest-hit European nations by deaths, as CNBC notes. The death rate in Spain slowed again on Monday, continuing a decline that has lasted several days, according to Reuters; deaths in France shot up, however.
In the meantime, Britain, which recently exited the European Union (EU), is thought to be weeks away from its peak. The country had over 5,000 deaths and over 50,000 cases as of 5 p.m. Monday, the BBC reported.
American look ahead
For weeks, causal observers in America and White House officials alike have looked at Italy and other European nations as a predictor of what might be coming in America. Like Italy’s and Europe’s, the United States’ economy has suffered a massive contraction thanks to limitations on travel and movement that now have a majority of Americans under orders to stay home.
President Donald Trump, for his part, said that there is a “light at the end of the tunnel” Sunday as the nation approached its peak, with American deaths nearing 10,000 and millions of people left jobless. Deborah Birx, a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, similarly pointed to the drop off in Italy and Spain as signs of “hope on what our future could be.”
In the meantime, Italy is leaving its lockdowns in place until at least April 12.