An overwhelmed Italian city in the heart of the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday sent more deaths to cremation in nearby cities than the country's leading toll worldwide exceeded 8,000.
Officials in Rome reported 662 new deaths and 6,153 infections, largely in line with the numbers reported during the week.
The increase in daily deaths declined to the lowest point in the crisis – 8.8 percent – while the infection rate was around eight percent on the fourth day in a row.
But the numbers don't drop much further and the Italians seem to be resigned to the realization that two weeks of life under lock and key did not make the disease go away.
"Until we see this damn drop in interest rates, we must continue to make very hard sacrifices," said Deputy Chief of Civil Defense, Agostino Miozzo, regarding the increasingly stringent containment measures.
Italy's death toll from coronaviruses is now 8,165 – more than in Spain and China, where the virus appeared in December.
"Crematoria could not cope with"
The endless flood of victims forced the city of Bergamo in the northern epicenter of the pandemic in Italy to send more bodies to less stressed crematoriums in neighboring cities.
An AFP photographer saw six green army stealth trucks carrying coffins from a Bergamo cemetery on Thursday.
"The large number of victims has resulted in the Bergamo crematorium not being able to cope on its own," said Mayor Giorgio Gori in a statement released to AFP.
The mayor said the city had also received 113 urns containing the ashes of corpses sent to cremation earlier this week.
The bodies in the city with about 120,000 inhabitants literally pile up.
On Thursday there were 35 freshly made wooden coffins in a warehouse in the municipality of Ponte San Pietro on the western outskirts of Bergamo, which were later intended for cremation.
Even more coffins filled a barren church hall in the Seriate community in the east of Bergamo.
A priest said a soft prayer across the rows of coffins and a single red rose rested on one in the otherwise empty room.
However, the Italian government is also concerned about the northern crisis, which is spreading to the much less developed south.
The head of the Campania region, which includes Naples, warned of a "dramatic explosion" of infections based on this week's trends.
"The next 10 days will be hell for us," Governor Vincenzo De Luca said in an open letter to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.
The number of officially registered deaths in Campania – Italy's third largest population with almost six million people – rose from 29 on Sunday to 83 on Thursday.
No more than 100 coronavirus deaths have been recorded in any southern region.
Italy's latest figures confirm that COVID-19 mostly kills older and sick people.
Data from Italy's first 5,542 deaths show that 98.6 percent of the victims already had at least one illness or pre-existing condition.
Just over half had three or more health problems when they died.
Only 29.1 percent of the victims were women. The inequality has been observed elsewhere and is still confusing to doctors around the world.
The average age of the victims was 78 years – a fraction lower than the 78.8 reported last week based on the first 3,200 deaths.
However, the Italian virologist Roberto Burioni said the numbers were "not particularly reliable" as the country mainly tested people who already had flu-like symptoms.
Italy's mortality rate among the confirmed COVID-19 cases was 10.1 percent, much higher than in countries with large-scale tests such as South Korea.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and published from a syndicated feed.)