Rome- Italian experts urged maximum caution in relaxing the restrictions imposed during the year-end holidays, arguing that the recent downward trend in the coronavirus pandemic was "slowing down."
The warning came after an assessment of the latest monitoring survey carried out in each of Italy's 20 regions between December 15 and December 28, 2020, by the Health Ministry and the National Health Institute (ISS), Xinhua news agency reported on Friday.
The decline in the contagion curve in Italy is slowing down, and the trend even reversed in the survey period, ISS President Silvio Brusaferro told a press conference.
The number of new Covid-19 cases has been on the increase again in almost all the regions, and in many of them the local health services were "overloaded," he said.
The monitoring report found that the average reproduction number (Rt) in the country was 0.93, i.e. one infectious person infected 0.93 people on average. However, this number has been increasing for three weeks now. It specified that "three regions have an Rt value above 1, and another three have an Rt value close to 1. The Veneto region has an Rt value above 1 as well as an especially high incidence rate."
"The incidence of the virus is still high across the whole country," Brusaferro said. "We have registered an average 166 cases per 100,000 inhabitants," with the numbers varying widely across the regions.
Brusaferro stressed the need to "take maximum care" with the adoption of measures and to remain virtuous to avoid the resurgence of the pandemic.
Based on the survey's findings, Health Minister Roberto Speranza was due to issue a new decree late on Friday with specific rules for each territory.
From January 10, Italy will go back to the three-tier "traffic light" system of local restrictions that was first introduced in early November 2020 but was suspended during the holidays. This system divides the country into three zones: red for the highest risk, orange for medium risk, and yellow for low risk.
Five regions were expected to become orange zones: northern Lombardy and Veneto -- the original epicenters of the pandemic -- as well as central Emilia Romagna, southern Sicily, and Calabria.
In these five regions, restrictions on businesses and people's movement would remain tight at least until January 15, when new monitoring data will be available. Travel within the region would remain prohibited.
The rest of the country would be declared a yellow zone, with lighter restrictions on businesses and the chance for people to move within the region.
The ban on movement between regions imposed during the year-end holidays would remain in place, along with the national curfew between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m.
At the same press conference, Franco Locatelli, president of Italy's Higher Health Council (CSS), commented that the country's vaccination campaign has been satisfactory to date. "Some 413,000 vaccine doses have been administrated so far, which ranks Italy among the first on the European continent," he said.
On January 7, after it received the green light from the European Medicines Agency (EMA), Moderna Inc.'s Covid-19 vaccine was also authorized for use by Italy's medicines regulator (AIFA).
On Friday, Italy registered 17,533 new coronavirus cases, which brought the total to 2,237,890. This latter figure included 570,389 active infections, 77,911 fatalities and 1,589,590 recoveries.
As the world is struggling to contain the pandemic, vaccination is underway in some countries with the already-authorized coronavirus vaccines.
Meanwhile, 235 candidate vaccines are still being developed worldwide -- 63 of them in clinical trials -- in countries including Germany, China, Russia, Britain, and the United States, according to information released by the World Health Organization on January 6. (IANS)
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