Italy: COVID-19 cases surge, hospitals near breaking-point; partial lockdown extended
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to surge in Italy, hospitals in the country are in a dire condition and nearing a breaking point, struggling with the rise in new admissions. Several regions of the country, including Naples and Florence, were declared coronavirus red zones on Friday. Over 1.1 million cases and 44,139 deaths have been reported in Italy so far. Here's more.
On Friday, Italy reported 40,902 COVID-19 cases in the last 24 hours, while 500 people died. The Health Ministry data showed new daily infections increased by 7.7% than the day before. Gianni Rezza, Director of the National Health Institute, said the rate of confirmed cases rose to 650 per 100,000 people, adding the "worrisome increase in hospitalizations" justifies the stricter restrictions.
Earlier this week, the Italian doctors' federation called for a countrywide lockdown to prevent the medical system from collapsing at a time when the government is facing strong criticism over the health crisis. As many as 52% of the hospital beds in the country were occupied by COVID-19 patients as of Wednesday, which is well above the Italian Health Ministry's 40% warning threshold.
"We're subject to high stress, working with no pause, not looking at the working hours anymore. What's good about this hospital is that they never turned away any patients," said Giuseppe Visone, a doctor in the first-aid unit of the Antonio Cardarelli Hospital in Naples.
In Italy, the government is imposing infection-control restrictions under a three-tiered color-coded mechanism: Red zones (least restrictive), orange zones (moderate risk), and yellow zones (high risk). In the red zones, regions are subject to partial lockdowns under which only necessities may remain open. Meanwhile, the regions in the yellow zones are subject to a 10:00 pm curfew.
Meanwhile, Italy's Campania region, where Naples is located, and the central Tuscany region are set to join five other red-zone regions and autonomous provinces, including Lombardy and the southern Calabria region, on Sunday. Notably, Lombardy is the epicenter of Italy's coronavirus pandemic.
The Mayor of Naples, Luigi de Magistris, has expressed relief that Campania has been designated a red zone. However, he said, "The health system is under massive pressure and on the verge of collapse." Separately, Campania's regional governor, Vincenzo de Luca, said, "We wanted to close everything in October, for a full month. This choice by the government made us lose two precious months."