Italy recorded nearly 1,000 coronavirus deaths on Friday, the world's worst daily rate since the pandemic began, as experts say the country's epidemic may be at its peak.
Five weeks after the root of the virus in Italy, the country's registered cases rose to nearly 86,500 – more than in the United States or China – where the flu-like disease occurred in December.
The number of deaths rose from 969 victims to 9,134, the civil protection agency said, including 50 victims who had been missing the previous day.
However, the contagion slowed – the number of cases increased 7.4 percent on Friday, compared to around 8.0 percent in the previous days – and the National Health Institute (ISS) cautiously suggested that the closure could soon bear fruit.
"I want to be clear on one point. We have not yet reached a peak," said the head of the institute, Silvio Brusaferro.
"There are signs of a slowdown that makes us think we are close and could peak in the next few days."
However, the virologist Fabrizio Pregliasco warned that this would not lead to a release to simplify the blocking measures.
The slight slowdown in the number of cases "should increase our desire to continue. We must not drop our watch."
And Brusaferro said that any removal of strict measures must be done with extreme caution.
"We need to take careful measures for a few months to prevent the epidemic curve from rising again," he said.
Italy's blockade came into force nationwide on March 9 and expanded stringent measures that had previously been taken in parts of the north where the epidemic started.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said last week that measures to close schools, bars and restaurants and restrict movement beyond the original end date of April 3 would be extended without specifying when.
& # 39; Saturation Point & # 39;
Regional authorities in the hard-hit north of Italy warned that their hospitals are still under enormous strain.
"We have reached the saturation point in intensive care, even though we have doubled the number of beds," said Alberto Cirio, Head of the Piedmont Region.
"If this rate doesn't drop, we risk not making it," he said, urgently appealing for additional ventilators.
National emergency commissioner Domenico Arcuri said military helicopters would be used to accelerate the distribution of emergency medical and sanitation services.
The number of doctors killed by the virus rose to 44 on Friday, with nearly 6,500 health workers infected, the ISS said.
The youngest victim was the 70-year-old doctor Annamaria Focarete. A tearful colleague told the AdnKronos news agency that "she seemed to have done it with her fighting spirit. Then she got a super infection."
Military doctors and nurses fighting the disease in field hospitals were thanked by Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini, who said they made the country proud.
"The struggle is still long, we still have a lot to do, but together we will be successful," he said on Skype.
"More victims needed"
However, he warned that "more sacrifices will be made of you" before the worst is over.
And there was still concern that the number of cases in central and southern Italy would continue to increase despite the closure.
"The darkness is deepening hour by hour. Psychological support for doctors is currently not only necessary but indispensable," said surgeon Liberato Aceto from Santissima Annunziata Hospital in Chieti, east of Rome.
"Conditions are becoming increasingly difficult in areas reserved for COVID-19 patients," he said.
It was particularly difficult not to be able to calm those who were affected by the disease and who feared for their lives.
The medical protective equipment worn by doctors, which was obliged to keep as far as possible, created "a barrier … an emotional distance" and prevented them from making the most basic gestures.
"We can comfort a patient longer by holding his hand or patting him on the shoulder," he said.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)