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ANALYSIS: How do Italy’s Covid-19 numbers compare to other European countries?

As Italy records a declining coronavirus incidence rate and an accelerating vaccination campaign, we look at how the country's numbers compare to France, Germany and the UK.

ANALYSIS: How do Italy's Covid-19 numbers compare to other European countries?
A man wearing a face mask stands near the beach of the Old Seaside Village of Boccadasse in Genoa. (Photo by Marco BERTORELLO / AFP)

The health situation in Italy is improving, as the new cases per 100,000 inhabitants have been falling since April and the pressure on hospitals is starting to ease, according to the latest health ministry report on Friday.

In fact, average daily new coronavirus cases is now below 4,000 for the first time since October 10th, the latest data showed, and deaths are also at a seven-month low.

The report stated that the weekly incidence rate was down to 47 per 100,000 inhabitants, from 66 per 100,000 for the previous week.

EXPLAINED: How has Italy changed the way it decides regional Covid-19 rules?

That makes it the first time this year that the incidence rate has dipped below 50 per 100,000 – the threshold which the Higher Health Institute (ISS) says “allows the containment of new cases”, as it is low enough for the country’s track and trace system to work effectively.

The Rt number – the reproduction rate, used to calculate how fast the virus is spreading – fell again, according to the latest data dropping to 0.72 from 0.78 the previous week, marking the lowest figure since almost a year ago.

These positive figures have seen three of Italy’s 20 regions move into the lowest-risk ‘white zone’ from Monday, with more soon to follow, and the country is experiencing a continued relaxing of restrictions.

MAP: Which parts of Italy will become Covid-19 ‘white zones’ in June?

It’s not only Italy that’s recording optimistic figures. Germany has also witnessed a steady decline in new Covid cases since April with a marked fall in the number of intensive care patients, while Covid-related deaths have fallen slightly.

The chart below by Our World in Data gives an overview of the Covid cases per million to give an overall picture of how Italy fares against the UK, Germany and France.

Based on the declining numbers, the German newspaper, Tagesspiegel, looked into how some of the largest European countries are progressing, looking ahead to possible summer travel. Here’s what they found.


Population: 60.4 million

7-day incidence: 39

Positive rate: 1.8 percent (May 27)

Intensive care patients: 1643 (May 20)

7-day mean deaths: 117

Vaccinated residents: 38 percent (fully vaccinated: 20 percent)

The paper noted that Italy hit the third coronavirus wave peak in March – which was earlier than France and Germany. After rising to 269 cases per 100,000 people at the end of the month, the incidence rate has been falling continuously since then.

Since the end of April, Italy and Germany have been around the same for the decline in the number of infections.

The 7-day incidence is now also at a comparable level. The situation continues to level peg for ICU patients and deaths, each in relation to the population.

People enjoy a drink at the Lido di Ostia seafront, southwest of Rome, as the easing of lockdown measures allows people to go to the beach. Italy is one of the countries worst-hit by the pandemic, with more than 122,000 deaths. Photo: Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Compared to Germany, though, the proportion of the total number of tests showing positive is significantly lower in Italy. However, as has been seen in France, this is also owed to the fact that significantly more tests have recently been carried out in Italy (an average of around 230,000 per day).

The vaccination rate in Italy is comparable to that in France, but slightly behind Germany – and the United Kingdom continues to be strides ahead.

However, the UK is also currently working to contain the so-called ‘Indian variant’, making it one of the few countries in Europe where the 7-day incidence is currently rising, although only slightly.


Population: 83 million

7-day incidence: 37

Positive rate: 5.8 percent (May 26)

Intensive care patients: about 2,450

7-day mean deaths: 149

Vaccinated population: 43 percent (fully vaccinated: 17 percent)

Taking a closer look at Germany, experts cite reasons such as tightened measures, a shift in public behaviour and better weather as the cause of why Germany has seen a drop in Covid-19 cases since April.

As the incidence in Germany is steadily falling, it could even fall below that of the UK’s soon.

READ ALSO: How did Germany get Covid cases down and will the trend continue?

This positive development has allowed districts and cities across the country to begin easing lockdown measures and reopening more of public life after restrictions came into force in November 2020.

People queue in front of a Covid-19 rapid antigen test center on the Castle Square in Stuttgart. Photo: THOMAS KIENZLE / AFP

Comparing the two countries’ vaccination campaign, Germany is ahead with 43 percent of first doses compared to about 38 percent in Italy.

Since the first jab provides some protection against Covid-19, the number of ICU patients and deaths in Germany may fluctuate less in future. In Germany there are now 2,450 ICU patients, which is less than the 2,500 that German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine (DIVI) predicted for mid-June.

In Italy on the other hand, there are 1,643 Covid-19 patients in ICU.


Population: 67.1 million

7-day incidence: 95

Positive rate: 3.5 percent (May 24)

Intensive care patients: about 3,000

7-day mean deaths: 115

Vaccinated population: 37 percent (fully vaccinated: 16 percent)

France is one of only a few countries in Europe with a 7-day incidence close to 100. This can be owed to the country having to recover from a much higher third coronavirus wave, the Tagesspiegel analysis said.  

Looking at April, while the number of new infections in Italy peaked at the beginning of the month at over 23,000, France logged almost 60,000 new Covid infections around the same time. 

Photo: Damien MEYER / AFP

After the incidence hit 477 infections per 100,000 people in mid-April, it has been falling continuously since then and reached 79 in the past week. There was a short spike back up to around 100, but the incidence is now falling again.

The number of positive tests – the so-called positive rate – is 1.7 percent higher than Italy, with France carrying out an average of around 300,000 tests per day compared to Italy’s 230,000.

READ ALSO: France opens Covid vaccines to everyone over 18

The vaccination rate in both countries is currently comparable between Italy and France.

The UK

Population: 66.7 million

7-day incidence: 32

Positive rate: 0.3 percent (May 26)

ICU patients: 743 (May 28)

7-day mean deaths: 9

Vaccinated residents: 58 percent (fully vaccinated: 37 percent)

Britain’s coronavirus situation and outlook is a mixed picture. It has benefited from a vaccination campaign that has far superseded all EU countries as a result of setting its own agenda following Brexit, with a remarkable 58 percent of the British population now having at least one shot. More than a third have already been fully vaccinated. 

The whole of the EU has coordinated the vaccination rollout with no country tackling it alone, meaning it’s taken longer compared to the agility of a single country.

Travel to and from the UK faces tougher restrictions following more Covid-19 variant outbreaks. (Photo by Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP)

However, the UK has faced other setbacks such as tackling new strains of Covid-19 such as the so-called ‘English variant’ and ‘Indian variant’ – labelled as such for where these strains were first detected.

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The 7-day incidence could be higher due to the variant that first originated in India. In early January, the UK had an incidence of 630 cases per 100,000 people.

A strict lockdown followed and the vaccination campaign steamed ahead, which saw the rate quickly fall below 100 by the end of February.

When the third wave started in Italy, the numbers in the UK decreased. The temporary lowest number was reached in mid-May at 20 cases per 100,000 people, a month after the country had reopened.

For the first time since the end of April, the number of new infections every day has risen to more than 3,000 in the past week, even reaching more than 4,000 in a day.

Even though this could signal a new wave for the UK, the other key indicators continue to develop very well in Britain compared to the rest of Europe, including Italy.

While the incidence is at a similar level, the number of deaths – 9 on a weekly average – is very low. In Italy there are 117. The number of people in ICU wards is also low at 743 versus Italy’s 1643.

The UK also continues widespread testing, with almost a million swabs a day, with just 0.3 percent showing positive.

Still, the Indian variant has caused concern, with Austria, Germany and France imposing travel restrictions from the UK – but so far, Italy doesn’t plan to follow suit.

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How many people get Italian residency every year?

If you’re thinking of becoming a legal resident of Italy, or are mid-way through the process, you may wonder how many others do the same each year and where they come from.

How many people get Italian residency every year?

Italy has official data showing how many permits are issued in total every year, and to whom – though this includes renewals, and it only gives us part of the picture.

According to Istat, Italy’s official statistics bureau, a total of just over 3.7 million residency permits (permessi di soggiorno) were issued in 2022, the most recent year for which data is available.

That’s almost 1.5 million temporary residency permits, and 2.2 million permanent or long-stay permits.

The number has been stable since at least 2016, Istat data shows, with no major increase or decrease in the number of permits issued. There is no official cap on the limit of residency permits available.

Obtaining a residency permit can be a lengthy process involving a large amount of paperwork, which means many applicants are likely to have moved to Italy some time before their first permit was issued.

READ ALSO: What’s the difference between Italian residency and citizenship?

Most residency permits issued in 2022 were for citizens of Morocco (roughly 399,000), Albania (389,000), Ukraine (383,000), China (343,000) and India (164,000).

The data showed that some 36,000 US citizens received Italian residency permits in 2022, 9,183 of which were permanent residency permits.

The numbers of permits given to Brits, Australians, Canadians and South Africans were not specified.

EU nationals are not included, as they are not required to apply for Italian residency permits.

READ ALSO: A complete guide to getting Italy’s residency permit

Istat’s population data meanwhile shows that there were roughly five million foreign nationals living in Italy in the same year, making up 8.5 percent of the population. This figure has been stable since 2014.

The majority of foreign-born residents in Italy were citizens of European countries (some 2.4 million), with more than half of that number (1.4 million) from EU member states.

They were followed by roughly one million people from African countries, one million from central and east Asia, and 370,000 from south and central America.

Broken down by country, the largest groups of international residents in Italy were Romanians (1,081,836) followed by Albanians (416,829), Moroccans (415,088), Chinese (307,038) and Ukrainians (249,613).

READ ALSO: Do foreigners in Italy have to carry their residency documents?

After Romania, the European Union countries with the most citizens registered as living in Italy were Poland (74,387), Germany (34,003), France (29,942), Spain (27,854) and the Netherlands (8,820).

Meanwhile Italy had some 27,758 residents from the UK, 15,582 from the USA, 2,230 Canadians, 1,518 Australians, 769 from South Africa and 354 from New Zealand.

Italy also recorded 1,235 resident citizens from the microstate of San Marino, and 16 from the Vatican City.

Data also shows that Italy’s foreign residents overwhelmingly choose to live in the north of the country: 83.8 percent live in the centre or north, according to Istat.

The Italian region home to the largest number of foreigners was the north-west, with 1,755,332 international residents. One million of those live in Lombardy, the region surrounding Milan.

See more in The Local’s Italian residency section.