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Italy's coronavirus indicators improve during holiday lockdown, experts warn against complacency

(Xinhua)    08:43, December 29, 2020

ROME, Dec. 28 (Xinhua) -- Italy's coronavirus infection and mortality rates continued to show improvement as the country approached the halfway point in its nationwide holiday lockdown.

On Monday, the country recorded 8,585 new infections, down from 8,913 a day earlier. The back-to-back totals represented the first time the infection rate was below 10,000 on consecutive days since Oct. 14-15, with Monday's new infections nearly one-fifth of the country's all-time peak of 40,896 on Nov. 13.

The pandemic claimed 445 lives over the 24-hour period ending Monday. It was the third consecutive day with fewer than 500 deaths, a level seen just three times in the previous 50 days.

Other coronavirus indicators improved as well: the total number of active cases in the country declined by more than 6,500 to just over 575,000. There were 2,565 Italians in intensive-care units, 15 fewer than a day earlier and a drop of 320 compared to ten days ago.

The latest developments come a day after Italy began its national coronavirus vaccination rollout and on the fifth day of a 14-day national lockdown.

The lockdown aimed to curb large gatherings over the holiday season that in Italy are known for parties, big meals, and popular celebrations. As the holidays approached, political leaders and health experts warned the holidays could dramatically increase the spread of the virus.

At least so far, that has not happened.

"I am satisfied and also proud of the way we have approached this decisive period," Minister of Health Roberto Speranza told La Stampa. "We may finally be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel."

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte praised the vaccine rollout Sunday, saying that "Today, Italy is awakening," predicting that the date will remain in people's memories "forever." Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Enrico Letta said that the discipline shown so far during the holidays combined with the arrival of effective vaccines meant that Italy was "living in a period of hope."

Domenico Arcuri, Italy's Extraordinary Commissioner for the Coronavirus Emergency, walked a line between praising recent developments while urging caution.

"Slowly, we are emerging from the dark night of the pandemic, but we must continue to be prudent, cautious, and responsible," he said.

Other government health experts are warning against relaxing efforts. The country's Scientific Technical Committee said that cinemas, gyms, swimming pools, and beauty centers originally slated to re-open on Jan. 15 could be delayed if coronavirus indicators fail to improve. Health experts ranging from Speranza to top virologists warned against complacency in the wake of the recent positive news.

Still, Speranza said the plan remains for the country to revert to the previous plan of three colored zones -- yellow, orange, and red -- starting on Jan. 7, when the current lockdown concludes. The different zones allow for different levels of activity depending on the severity of the outbreak in specific regions.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Wen Ying, Liang Jun)

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