For the last three days, the number of new cases in Italy have declined, but previous cases still crowd hospitals

By Julie Mazziotta
March 24, 2020 03:04 PM

New cases of the COVID-19 coronavirus are beginning to decline in Italy, two weeks after the country implemented a full lockdown.

For the last three days, the number of new cases and deaths have gone down, Italian health officials report. Between Sunday and Monday, the number of new cases declined by 997, from 6,557 to 5,560, according to the World Health Organization.

And in Lombardy, the northern region of Italy where the country’s outbreak began, the number of hospitalized patients is starting to come down, from 9,266 to 9,439, The New York Times reported.

“We can say that today is the first positive day,” Giulio Gallera, the leading health official in Lombardy, said Monday, according to the Times. “It’s not the moment to sing victory, but we finally see light at the end of the tunnel.”

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But Italy has become the country most devastated by the virus. On Thursday, the nation officially surpassed China for the most deaths related to COVID-19, and as of Tuesday, they have nearly double the death toll — 6,077 in Italy, and 3,277 in China. While the number of deaths in Italy are starting to decrease — there were 146 less between Sunday and Monday — the number of deaths is still staggering, with 649 on Monday.

With overwhelmed hospitals and ventilators in short supply, some doctors have been forced to decide which patients are more likely to survive, and should get the needed breathing help.

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One doctor in the city of Bergamo, in the Lombardy region, said that he thankfully has not yet had to choose.

“The important thing is not to arrive at that point,” he told the Times. “No one wants to decide who lives or dies like God.”

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Italy implemented a full lockdown on March 9, stopping the country’s 16 million citizens from any travel through the country or from going outside. But much of the country was already dealing with widespread infections, particularly in northern Italy.

Still, with the number of new cases decreasing two weeks after the lockdown began, it’s a hopeful sign that Italy is turning a corner. And the timeline — a decrease in cases about two weeks after a lockdown — follows in line with what happened in China after they started a lockdown in early February, as Bloomberg writer Noah Smith pointed out on Twitter.

China says that they are not seeing any new domestic cases of COVID-19. Officials said Tuesday that they will be lifting the lockdown on Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, on April 8, over two months since it began.

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