Italy daily COVID-19 cases hit record high as government eyes new measures

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy registered 11,705 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, the health ministry said, up from the previous record of 10,925 posted the day before, as the government prepares fresh measures to battle a second wave of the disease.

Italy was the first country in Europe to be hit hard by COVID-19 and has the second-highest death toll in the region after Britain, with 36,543 fatalities since the outbreak flared in February, according to official figures.

Authorities had managed to get contagion largely under control by the summer thanks to a rigid two-month nationwide lockdown but as a second wave has emerged, they have ordered new measures, including mandatory mask wearing in public and restrictions on public gatherings and restaurants.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is due to announce further measures later on Sunday.

COVID-related deaths on Sunday increased to 69, up from 47 the day before, the ministry said - far fewer than at the height of the pandemic in Italy in March and April, when daily fatalities peaked at more than 900.

The number of intensive care cases reached 750 on Sunday from 705 on Saturday after hitting a low of around 40 in the second half of July.

Ministers have ruled out a repeat of the lockdown imposed at the start of the crisis but officials have looked at a range of alternative measures to reduce social contact.

Transport Minister Paola De Micheli said on Sunday the government was not considering a France-style curfew but said schools and companies would be asked to adopt a staggered timetable to avoid congestion on public transport.

Stricter measures have been already imposed in some of the hardest-hit regions, including Campania around Naples, which has closed schools for two weeks.

As a part of a new 40 billion euros stimulus package the government approved in its 2021 budget, Rome will set up a 4 billion euro fund to compensate companies which have been worst hit by coronavirus restrictions.

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Alexandra Hudson)

10/18/2020 20:28

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