Italy's Covid infection rate climbs after weeks of decline

by IANS |

Rome, June 18 (IANS) Italy's coronavirus infection rate has been climbing for two weeks in a row after a period of decline, according to data released by the country's High Institute of Health.

The institute, known as ISS, said that the infection rate for the week ending on Thursday reached 310 per 100,000 inhabitants, an increase from 222 per 100,000 a week earlier and 207 per 100,000 two weeks before, Xinhua news agency reported.

The Rt rate, a measure of how fast a disease is spreading, rose from the previous week, reaching 0.83 for the June 10-16 period, up from 0.75 a week earlier. A rate of 0.80 is considered the threshold for a disease to be classified as an epidemic nationally. An Rt rate above 1.0 means a disease is no longer contained and is spreading.

Health outcomes are still strong, however, with the percentage of infected patients in intensive care units dropping to 1.9 per cent over the last week, down from 2.0 per cent a week earlier and 2.3 per cent over the previous week.

In contrast to a week ago, just one of Italy's 21 regions is considered a "low" risk, with 14 classified as "moderate" risk and the remaining six as "high" risk due to the rising number of alerts, a standard established in April 2020 in the earliest period of the pandemic in Italy.

For the first time, ISS said on Friday that 100 percent of the more than 572,000 active cases of coronavirus are of the highly-transmissible Omicron variant, which first emerged in South Africa in November 2021. The so-called "BA.2" sub-variant was "dominant" in Italy, data showed, accounting for 23.2 per cent of all cases, according to a rapid survey conducted by ISS, the Ministry of Health, regional labs, and the Bruno Kessler Foundation.

In a media interview, Walter Ricciardi, former president of ISS and senior advisor to Italy's Ministry of Health, said Italy may be guilty of relaxing restrictions too quickly after infection rates and other pandemic indicators fell in recent weeks.

"It's our third summer (of the pandemic) and we still haven't learned our lesson," Ricciardi told ADNKronos. "In the most favorable times for fighting viruses, the spring and summer, we cannot let our guard down, and we must also prepare for unfavorable conditions, in the autumn, and I don't think any of this is being done."

Over the 24-hour period ending Friday, Italy recorded more than 35,000 new coronavirus infections, a surge from around 21,500 a week earlier. The country reported 41 new deaths from Covid-19.

Despite the recent increases, the daily infection rate remains far below the peaks of more than 200,000 in mid-January.

Government data shows 90.1 per cent of the population aged over 12 have been fully vaccinated. Plus more than 2.8 million Italians who have recovered from Covid-19 over the past six months, 96.8 per cent of the population over 12 years old have an immunity to the disease.

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