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COVID-19 STATS

MAP: Where are Covid infection rates rising fastest in Italy?

Covid numbers throughout Italy have risen in recent weeks, with the regions of Lombardy and Veneto reporting particularly high infection rates. We look at the latest stats and explore what they mean.

MAP: Where are Covid infection rates rising fastest in Italy?
A pharmacy in Codogno, Lombardy, where the first outbreak of coronavirus in Europe was detected. Lombardy remains the region with the highest infection rate. Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

What’s the overall picture?

Italy’s Covid infection rate continues to rise, although at a slower rate this week.

The health ministry recorded 58,360 new cases in the past 24 hours on Tuesday night, down from the 65,925 seen last Tuesday, which was the peak of the autumn wave so far.

Some 329,569 tests were recorded in 24 hours, with the test positivity rate rising from 16 to 17.7 percent in a week.

Meanwhile the numbers of recorded hospitalisations and fatalities also continue to rise.

Infection rates have been rising in Italy since the start of October. Health experts said this increase was expected after the mass return to work and school in September after the summer holidays.

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the situation is not the same across the country. Regions are reporting significant variations in infection rates.

Which regions are worst affected?

Analysis of official data this week showed that the sharpest increases over the past two weeks in percentage terms were in Valle d’Aosta, Emilia Romagna, and Sardinia

However the highest numbers of cases overall were in the most populous of Italy’s northern regions, as has been the case since the start of the pandemic.

Numbers are much lower in southern regions, though in some cases are high in percentage terms relative to the population.

Italy is currently recording around 40,000 new Covid cases per day, around 7,700 of which are in the region of Lombardy, around Milan, and some 5,000 in Veneto, of which Venice is the capital.

Piedmont, Emilia-Romagna and Tuscany follow, as the map below shows.

Veneto has the higher rate of cases per 100,000 people, at 104, while Lombardy’s rate stands at 79.

The region with the highest number of cases per 100,000 people overall was neighbouring Trentino-Alto-Adige, with 131, which represents 1,405 new daily cases on average.

In percentage terms over the past two weeks, cases in Veneto rose by +63 percent, in Lombardy +84 percent, and Trentino-Alto-Adige +68.

The small region of Valle d’Aosta recorded the highest percentage increase in cases, at +186, which amounts to around 118 new infections per day.

In the same time frame, the sparsely populated southern region of Basilicata had the smallest increase at +29 percent, followed by Abruzzo with +40.

The graph below shows the relationship between cases per 100,000 inhabitants and the percentage increase in cases.

The positioning of the regions are indicative of the incidence rate per 100,000 over the past two weeks, shown on the horizontal axis, and the percentage increase in cases in the past week.

What do the rising numbers mean for Italy?

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, the number of serious cases resulting in hospitalisations, intensive care referrals, and deaths has risen a couple of weeks after the increase in ne

Many medical experts have said that, with more than 90 percent of the Italian population vaccinated, they expect most people to experience mild cases of Covid this autumn and winter.

The main concern related to rising Covid numbers is that rising infection rates will mean staff shortages in hospitals and other critical services.

People still have to isolate for at least five days or a maximum of 14 days in Italy if they get a positive test result.

At the time of writing, Italy is days away from forming a new government following elections last month and a new health minister could mean a different approach to managing the pandemic.

It’s not known whether the new Italian government will consider bringing back any health restrictions if case numbers continue to rise.

However, the far-right Brothers of Italy party, which won elections on September 25th, said this week it is still against the reintroduction of Italy’s green pass health certificate or any vaccination requirements.

Under the outgoing government, the most recent updates from the health ministry confirmed that it continues to monitor the situation and advised those in vulnerable groups, including the over-60s, to get a booster jab this winter.

Find a guide to booking a Covid-19 booster jab in each region of Italy here.

You can follow The Local’s news updates on the Covid-19 situation in Italy here.

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COVID-19 STATS

Italy’s emergency rooms ‘pushed to limits’ by Covid and flu cases

Doctors have warned that Covid along with a "very rapid" rise in seasonal flu cases means Italy's emergency rooms risk being overwhelmed over the holidays.

Italy's emergency rooms 'pushed to limits' by Covid and flu cases

Fabio De Iaco, president of the Italian Society of Emergency and Urgent Medicine (Simeu), sounded the alarm on Monday, saying hospital admissions have risen 50 percent since September.

“Flu and Covid are pushing emergency rooms to their limit,” said De Iaco, adding that he fears the problem “can only get worse in the coming weeks.”

Hospitals expect the peak to arrive during the holidays, “when we will have more elderly patients but also more staff off sick.”

The problem is mainly down to a sharp spike in seasonal flu cases, he said. This year’s flu wave began three weeks ago, around a month ahead of usual annual trends.

“We see numbers that pre-pandemic were reached in mid-January,” says De Iaco. 

“Children began to arrive in the emergency room first, but now the age of patients is rising and will increase during the holidays, when viruses are typically passed between generations.”

Silvestro Scotti, general secretary of the Italian Federation of General Practitioners (Fimmg), told news outlets that Italy’s current seasonal flu case numbers are at their highest in 15 years.

READ ALSO: When, where and how to get the flu vaccine in Italy

“Every week a family doctor has about 100 patients who fall ill, which translates into at least two to three calls per week for each one, plus visits and a lot of bureaucracy. We’re practically going crazy,” he said.

At the same time, hospitals are dealing with an influx of Covid patients. While the latest data from the Gimbe health think tank shows a slight decrease in new case numbers, both hospitalisations and intensive care admissions are up.

According to De Iaco, the symptoms of this flu variant (that many Italian outlets are calling the influenza australiana or the ‘Australian flu’) are similar to those for Covid, including a high fever and respiratory difficulties.

This can make it hard for doctors to immediately distinguish between the two, leading to Covid and flu patients mixing in the wards.

“Many arrive with flu symptoms in the emergency room and we discover that it is Covid only at the time of the test,” says De Iaco.

“And for those who test positive we have difficulty finding staff and a place for their isolation.” 

He encouraged patients to stay at home and avoid going to the emergency room unless they were particularly vulnerable, warning that they “face long waits and risk becoming infected with other viruses.”

Doctors are appealing for those who are eligible to get vaccinated against the flu to avoid inundating hospitals.

“It is vital that those at risk choose to get vaccinated as soon as possible, otherwise we risk living through some very serious months,” said Fimmg secretary Scotti.

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