Over half the residents tested in northern Italy’s coronavirus hotspot of Bergamo have tested positive for coronavirus antibodies, health authorities reported on Monday.
Between April 23 and June 3, 9,965 residents were tested with 57 percent showing they had antibodies, indicating they had come into contact with the virus, the survey showed.
Health authorities in Bergamo said the results were based on a “random” sample which was “sufficiently broad” to be a reliable indicator of how many people had been infected in the province, which became the epicentre of Italy's outbreak.
In a separate statement issued later, the Bergamo health agency said that most of those in the sample were residents of the worst-hit areas. Many had already been put under quarantine, the statement added.
Of 10,404 health operators tested, antibodies were found in just over 30 percent, but this group is generally considered more at risk than others.
In a report released in early May, national statistics institute ISTAT said the number of deaths in Bergamo was up 568 percent in March compared with the 2015-2019 average, making it Italy's worst-hit city in terms of deaths.
Its hospitals were overwhelmed by infected people and, with morgues unable to keep up, convoys of army trucks carrying away the dead became a chilling symbol of the global pandemic.
Bergamo province has reported 13,609 coronavirus cases, official data showed on Monday.
ISTAT and the health ministry have launched a nationwide blood testing campaign, aiming to test a representative sample of some 150,000 people to understand the extent of Italy's COVID-19 epidemic.
Italy has reported almost 34,000 coronavirus deaths, with some 235,000 confirmed cases. The Lombardy region, which includes Bergamo, has registered over 16,000 deaths.