Fri, 04 Dec 2020

ROME, Oct. 19 (Xinhua) -- Italy's strategy to tackle the second coronavirus wave focuses on large-scale testing, top experts noted on Monday, as official statistics showed a slight slowdown in daily case numbers.

"Italy is among the countries in the world carrying out the highest number of tests," said Franco Locatelli, president of the country's Higher Health Council (CSS) and member of the technical-scientific committee counseling the cabinet in the COVID-19 emergency.

His remarks, delivered in an interview with the national radio network InBlu, made headlines across Italy's major media on Monday. "In recent days, we have exceeded 150,000 molecular tests (daily) ... and antigen tests are also available," Locatelli explained.

However, he suggested that, beyond the simple figures, Italy now needed to focus on a comprehensive strategy also involving general family doctors and pediatricians in the testing. SLOWDOWN

Meanwhile, some 9,338 new coronavirus cases -- of which 7,766 were new infections -- were registered on Monday against the previous day, according to the Health Ministry.

The country totals 423,578 COVID-19 cases, including 134,003 active infections, 252,959 recoveries and 36,616 fatalities.

A large majority of those actively infected (125,530) are currently isolated at home because they are either asymptomatic or with mild symptoms, while 7,676 are hospitalized and a further 797 are in intensive care, data showed.

Monday's increase (9,338) was moderately lower compared to that registered in the previous three days. Italy reported 10,010 new cases on Friday, 10,925 on Saturday and 11,705 on Sunday.

Between Oct. 9 and Oct. 15, the daily increases ranged between 5,300 and 8,800. On Oct 12, 4,619 new cases were registered. RESTRICTIONS

This rapid surge prompted Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's government to enact further restrictive measures on Sunday, including giving mayors the power to shut down busy squares or streets in their cities after 9 p.m. in order to prevent public gatherings.

Previous restrictions had already been introduced on Oct. 7.

This strategy found broad support across the country, although some experts on Monday suggested that further geographically limited restrictions might still be needed in the near future.

"The latest measures at national level are good, yet there are areas that would already need selected lockdowns ... and we cannot wait for Christmas time," Walter Ricciardi, counselor of Italy's health minister and a top Italian public health expert, told state-run RAI 3 TV channel.

Ricciardi explained that local closures -- if implemented "timely, adequately and proportionally" -- could integrate the latest measures at national level and be consistent with the cabinet's declared goal of avoiding a second national lockdown.

Italy's latest moves came as the world struggles to put the pandemic under control, and amid strong efforts from countries across the globe -- including the European Union (EU) member states, China, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- to find a vaccine against COVID-19.

On this issue, CSS chief Locatelli on Monday recalled that "global efforts on vaccines are very intense at the moment."

"Realistically speaking, I think we might be able to start vaccinations in the first months of next spring, beginning with fragile people, law enforcement officials and health professionals," Ricciardi said.

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