Tuesday Mar 24, 2020
Two successive declines in the daily death rate to a painful national lockdown in Italy appeared to be finally bearing fruit, as the country’s top coronavirus response official stated Tuesday.
But the civil protection chief, Angelo Borrelli also noted that the real number of infections was probably 10 times higher than the official count.
He also said the nation of 60 million was on course to overtake China's total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in a week.
"The measures we took two weeks ago are starting to have an effect," Borrelli said in an interview with the La Repubblica daily.
They are also higher than those seen anywhere else in the world.
Italian officials are using the drop to double down on their message for everyone to stay home at all times, no matter the personal discomfort or economic pain.
Most big global banks think Italy has already entered a deep economic recession that could be more severe than anything seen in decades.
The Mediterranean country has seen the number of daily fatalities come down from a world record 793 on Saturday to 651 on Sunday and 601 on Monday.
The Lombardy region around Milan that was plunged into the epicentre of the pandemic has begun imposing 5,000-euro ($5,400) fines on those outside without a good excuse.
Borrelli said he supported the measures because it was "credible" to assume "there is one infection counted for every 10 that are not".
Italy has been trying to figure out how it managed to become the global epicentre of a pandemic that began on the other side of the world.
Its 6,077 confirmed deaths are higher than those of China and third-placed Spain combined.
Borrelli did not seek to blame anyone or any single factor.
"From the very start, people were behaving in a way that fuelled the national problem," Borrelli said.
But he did point to a Champions League match between Italy's Atalanta and Spain's Valencia's football clubs in Milan's San Siro stadium on February 19 as a particularly egregious mistake.
It was attended by 40,000 fans who celebrated the local team's win deep into the night.
"We can now say, with hindsight, that it was potentially a detonator," Berrelli said of the match.