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@thelocalitaly 20 April 2020,13:21
People in Rome during Italy’s Covid-19 lockdown. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFPWhile some regions of Italy could contain the coronavirus outbreak as soon as this week, others will have to wait until June before halting new cases, health experts estimate.
The first regions to halt infections will be Basilicata in the south and Umbria in central Italy, according to a new report by the National Observatory on Health Status in the Italian Regions.
By analysing Italy’s official Covid-19 figures over the past month, the observatory predicts that if current trends continue both regions could reach zero new cases by Tuesday, April 21st.
Yet for the regions of Lombardy and Marche, new cases aren’t likely to stop growing until at least the end of June, it says.
The analysis comes as the Italian government deliberates which of Italy’s lockdown measures – if any – should be lifted when the current restrictions expire on May 4th.
While some regions are calling for business to resume after six weeks of near-total suspension and a pronounced decline in new cases, many fear that moving to a less severe ‘Phase Two’ of the lockdown too early could reverse hard-won progress.
“The projections show that the epidemic is lessening very slowly, therefore this data suggests that the transition to the so-called ‘Phase Two’ should take place gradually and at different times in different regions,” the health observatory says.
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It based its predictions on figures from February 24th to April 17th, when Italy’s nationwide lockdown was in full force – so if the restrictions are eased, the projected end dates are likely to be pushed back, it warns.
The dates in its report shouldn’t be taken as the day when regions will reach zero new cases, the experts say, but as the earliest point they might do so. Infections are very unlikely to halt before then, they predict.
Here, in order, is when they project new cases could end in each of Italy’s 20 regions:
- Basilicata: April 21st
- Umbria: April 21st
- Molise: April 26th
- Sardinia: April 29th
- Sicily: April 30th
- Calabria: May 1st
- Puglia: May 7th
- Abruzzo: May 7th
- Campania: May 9th
- Lazio: May 12th
- Valle d’Aosta: May 13th
- Liguria: May 14th
- Province of Trento (Alto Adige/South Tyrol): May 16th
- Friuli Venezia Giulia: May 19th
- Veneto: May 21st
- Piedmont: May 21st
- Province of Bolzano (Alto Adige/South Tyrol): May 26th
- Emilia Romagna: May 29th
- Tuscany: May 30th
- Marche: June 27th
- Lombardy: June 28th
The daily increase in new cases is already in single figures in Basilicata and Umbria, which saw cases rise by just three and four respectively between April 18-19th.
Molise, Valle d’Aosta, Friuli Venezia Giulia and Sardinia reported fewer than 20 new cases each over the same period.
Meanwhile cases in Lombardy, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Italy, continues to report hundreds of new cases each day, including 855 in the latest 24-hour update.
The neighbouring north-west region of Piedmont had the next highest daily increase, with 593.
However, as the health observatory points out, the figures available probably don’t reflect the true number of coronavirus cases in Italy since testing policies vary by region, and many people with mild or no symptoms may never be diagnosed.
A map showing the distribution of cases according to the official April 19th figures from Italy’s Civil Protection department.
Lombardy, home to Italy’s business capital Milan and the heartland of Italian industry, has been under quarantine measures for longer than any other region.
Its regional president, Attilio Fontana of the right-wing populist League party, has called for businesses all over Italy to restart from May 4th.
While he was backed by the president of Veneto, fellow League member Luca Zaia, other officials have called the idea premature as health experts continue to urge caution.
Meanwhile regions in the south of Italy, which feared people returning from work or study in the north would bring the virus with them and place dangerous strain on underfunded hospitals, remain wary of allowing travel within Italy to resume.
While the south appears to have avoided serious contagion so far, governor of Campania Vincenzo De Luca warned on Friday that he would consider closing his region’s borders to people from the north should Lombardy or others lift stay-at-home orders.