Government officials in Italy are finding reasons to be optimistic as the latest data coming out of the country is showing initial signs of a slowdown in infections.
Italy has been the world’s worst affected country in the world, in terms of fatalities suffered as a result of the coronavirus, with almost 14,000 deaths recorded in the latest Johns Hopkins data. And ever since it’s March 10 shutdown, it has been closely watched by the rest of the world in order to observe the efficacy of the measures that have been taken.
And now there is reason for a cautious optimism, with figures showing that there is a slow in the number of hospitalisations requiring intensive care and that the total number of cases is increasing at a steadily slower rate, meaning that the peak of the epidemic may be on the horizon, with the sharpest daily increase in cases behind us.
On Thursday, according to Al Jazeera, Italy announced 760 deaths in 24 hours, taking their total to 13,915, as new cases grew at a steady rate by 4,668, against the previous day’s 4,782, to a total of 115,242. And similar rates had been recorded over the previous five days with shifts between a maximum of 5.6% and a minimum of 4% increase in infections.
On 21 March, for example, the country recorded its highest increase of 6,557 new cases and the highest death toll for a single day was 919 on 27 March. However, there is no cause for celebration just yet as there may be other explanations for why the figures recorded have seen a slower rise in infections.
“Technically, the peak is the day when the highest number of daily infections is reached,” Nino Cartabellotta, a leading Italian public health expert, told Al Jazeera.
“After March 21, when Italy had a high of 6,500 cases, we witnessed a decrease. We are now in a sort of a plateau, where numbers still go up and down, since they also depend on the number of tests conducted on a daily basis. This might last up to three weeks, when a [decrease] should begin.”
“The number of infected patients [announced] depends on the daily changes in the number of tests, meaning this figure cannot be taken as an objective measure. [It is like] looking through a keyhole that keeps constantly changing in size,” he concluded.
And these numbers don’t include the untested people, who are showing little or no symptoms, but are infected. And the number of deaths recorded don’t include those who have died at home or in nursing homes. So the numbers cannot be trusted yet.
Nonetheless, Silvio Brusaferro, president of the National Institute of Health, told reporters in a press conference that the nation might be hitting a plateau and hinted at the possibility of reaching a peak in the contagion. And good news for Italy would be good news for the world, given that many of us are following its example in terms of lockdowns and preventative measures. If the measures are being proven to work in the country and if vital data is collected, it could bring us closer to learning how to contain the virus everywhere.
We must stress that it’s still early days and you must exercise the same degree of caution and that returning to normal life is still a long way off. Self-isolation remains as necessary as ever , but this may create a glimmer of hope for us all.