Italy became the second European country to cross the grim milestone of 100,000 Covid-19 deaths on Monday, with Prime Minister Mario Draghi warning of further pain ahead as hospital stays jump.
The Italian Ministry of Health said that 318 new deaths from the disease had been registered in the last 24 hours.
Italy was the first western country to be affected by the novel coronavirus 13 months ago. It is now the second in Europe to register more than 100,000 deaths after the UK.
It took the country nine months to register its first 50,000 deaths and only three and a half months to double them.
Infections increased by 23 percent last week compared to the week before and health officials have warned that the country is facing a new rise in cases when a more contagious variant of the disease, which was first discovered in the UK, is gaining ground.
Draghi acknowledged that the situation was deteriorating, but said his government would “significantly increase” its vaccination campaign.
“The pandemic is not over yet, but with the acceleration of the vaccine plan, a way out is not far off,” he said in his first public address since taking office last month.
As in other EU countries, Italy’s vaccination campaign has started slowly, partly due to delivery delays from pharmaceutical manufacturers.
As of Monday morning, 5.42 million shots had been fired, of which 1.65 million of Italy’s 60 million people had received the recommended two doses. The government is considering changing tactics to prioritize first doses rather than storing second doses.
Actual tolls may be higher
The Ministry of Health said that there had been 687 new hospital admissions in the last 24 hours, up from 443 on Sunday. The total number of patients in intensive care increased by 95 to 2700.
Italy went into a draconian deadlock in March to slow down the virus’ progress. New cases fell sharply during the summer, but a second wave hit the country in the autumn.
After declining in January, infections have pushed up again, and authorities said on Friday that the average reproduction rate had risen to 1.06 – the first time it had moved above threshold 1 in seven weeks.
An “R” number above 1 indicates that infections are growing at an exponential rate.
Data released on Friday suggested that tolls may still be higher. Statistics Sweden ISTAT said that there were 100,525 exaggerated deaths in Italy last year compared to the 2015-2019 average, more than 75,891 deaths that were officially linked to coronavirus 2020.
( Jowharwith REUTERS)