Coronavirus: Italy loosens COVID-19 restrictions in five regions

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The Italian government will ease anti-COVID restrictions in five regions from Sunday, including in the country’s richest and most populous region Lombardy, the Health Ministry said.

Lombardy, Piedmont and Calabria will be downgraded from red to orange zones, while Sicily and Liguria will be designated as yellow rather than orange zones.

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Friday’s decision follows a gradual decline in hospitalisations from coronavirus in much of Italy over the past week, with the number of new cases also retreating from highs seen earlier this month. Italy reported 827 COVID 19-related deaths on Friday, against 822 the day before, and 28,352 new infections, down from 29,003 on Thursday, the health ministry said.

There were 222,803 swabs carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 232,711.

Italy was the first Western country to be hit by the virus and has seen 53,677 COVID-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain’s. It has also registered 1.538 million cases.

While Italy’s daily death tolls have been amongst the highest in Europe over recent days, the rise in hospital admissions and intensive care occupancy has slowed, suggesting the latest wave of infections was receding.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 stood at 33,684 on Friday, down 354 on the day before.

The number in intensive care decreased by 64, following a fall of two on Thursday, and now stands at 3,782.

When Italy’s second wave of the epidemic was accelerating fast in the first half of November, hospital admissions were rising by around 1,000 per day, while intensive care occupancy was increasing by about 100 per day.

The northern region of Lombardy, centered on Italy’s financial capital Milan, remained the hardest hit area on Friday, reporting 5,389 new cases from a previous 5,697.

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