While number of deaths from COVID-19 is stable, Italian Minister of Health plans next phase

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MILAN (Reuters) – Italy’s health minister presented plans on Sunday to expand testing and strengthen health services as part of a package that would follow future easing in the fight against coronaviruses in the country.

A woman wearing a protective mask walks on the Rialto Bridge on Palm Sunday, following the epidemic of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Venice, Italy, April 5, 2020. REUTERS / Manuel Silvestri

Roberto Speranza said it was too early to say when Italy could lift the measures imposed across the country on March 9, when it became the first country in Europe to impose a general ban to slow the spread of the disease. virus.

With more than 15,000 deaths, Italy has the highest number of deaths from the disease in the world, accounting for almost a quarter of all deaths worldwide. But the government is also grappling with the economic devastation caused by the sudden shutdown of business across the country.

“There are difficult months ahead. Our job is to create the conditions to live with the virus, “at least until a vaccine is developed,” he told La Repubblica daily, adding that some social distancing measures should also remain.

The smallest daily increase in deaths from COVID-19 for almost two weeks on Saturday and the first decline in the number of intensive care patients raised hopes that the epidemic might have peaked in Italy and focused attention on the next phase of the crisis. .

The national lockdown, which strictly limits population movements and freezes all non-essential economic activity, will officially last until April 13 at least, but it should largely be extended.

“If we are not rigorous, we risk losing all our efforts,” said Speranza in separate comments to Corriere della Sera.

Speranza said he had released a note outlining five principles around which the government plans to deal with the so-called “phase two” of the emergency, when the lock-in restrictions start to be relaxed but before a full return to conditions normal.

He said social distance should remain, with wider use of personal protective devices such as face masks, while local health systems would be strengthened, to allow faster and more effective treatment of suspected cases of COVID-19.

Testing and “contact tracing” would be expanded, including the use of smartphone apps and other forms of digital technology, while a network of hospitals dedicated solely to treating COVID-19 patients would be put in place.

“Until a vaccine is released, we cannot rule out a new wave of the virus,” he said.

Report by Giulio Piovaccari; Editing by Frances Kerry

Our standards:Principles of the Thomson Reuters Trust.

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