Rome, Jan 5 (IANS) The main indicators tied to the coronavirus pandemic in Italy so far in 2021 has remained below the peaks recorded in November and December 2020, as the country's national holiday lockdown was drawing to a close.
But health experts warned it was still too early to know how effective the restrictions put in place for the holidays would prove to be, Xinhua news agency.
According to data from the Ministry of Health, in the 24-hour period ending Monday, Italy recorded 10,800 new cases and 348 new deaths.
The infection figure was down from 14,243 a day earlier while the death tally increased by one.
With the new figures, the country's overall caseload and death toll currently stood at 2,166,244 and 75,680, respectively.
But both figures reflect a gradual downward trend that started in late November.
The single-day infection rate is the fourth-lowest since mid-October, with all of the numbers below 11,000 recorded in the last 10 days.
Similarly, the 24-hour death toll is among the five lowest recorded since the start of November, with all five of those days coming in the last 10 days.
The number of patients in intensive care units (ICU) saw little change compared to recent days: there were 2,579 recorded on Monday, down by just four compared to the day before and 14 more than 10 days ago.
The number of daily recoveries continued to outpace new infections: there were 16,206 new recoveries reported on Monday, bringing the total to 1,520,106, but the recovery rate has remained mostly flat over the last two weeks.
Italy's national holiday coronavirus lockdown, which went into effect last December 24, 2020, will be lifted starting Thursday.
Minister of Health Roberto Speranza told the Italian news agency ANSA that the new plan would "correctly balance" health needs with the reopening of some parts of the economy.
Walter Ricciardi, a senior Ministry of Health official, predicted a new third wave of the virus could hit the country in the second half of this month.
"A third wave is building and could hit us within two weeks," he said in an interview with the news program TG 24.
Ricciardi predicted the country would see a "non-trivial increase in the contagion" and called for a prolonged lockdown to slow the virus' spread.
Virologist Fabrizio Pregliasco echoed Ricciardi's remarks, saying he feared Italy was "under-estimating the pandemic" and predicting that infections would soon start to climb.
One potential challenge is that most schools are set to reopen on Thursday, though some regional governors called for the reopening to be delayed until the impact of the holiday period was clearer.
Minister of Education Lucia Azzolina defended the government's decision to reopen schools, saying: "School is an essential public service. We cannot continue to sacrifice our children's learning or pretend that distance learning can replace face-to-face teaching."
Italy is now in its second week of vaccinations.
According to the Ministry of Health data, Italy will have to administer 51,000 vaccinations a day in order to have everyone in the country vaccinated by the end of the year, and that the country is already behind pace.
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