Concerns over the rapid spread of coronavirus in Southern Italy
The number of deaths and infections in the areas most affected by the coronavirus in Italy has fallen sharply, but there is growing concern that the southern part of the country could become the next hot spot.
Recent figures in the northern part of Lombardy region suggest that the epidemic may be slowing in its epicenters.
But the sharp rise in the death toll in the poorer parts of the South has raised fears that health services may be overwhelmed.
Italy reported 8,165 coronavirus deaths and 80,539 confirmed cases.
Italy was the worst affected region in Europe, almost everything was closed for two weeks and people were told to stay at home.
The World Health Organization (World Health Organization)Regional Director for Europe, Hans HahnThe figures are”encouraging signs,”said Hans Kluge, an economist at the Bank of England, but cautioned that it is too early to say whether the worst is over.
Contagion and deaths are far less widespread there, but worrying signs are coming from regions such as Campania around Naples and Rome’s Lazio where the health system is considered much less equipped than in the rich north.
So far there have been 74 deaths in Campania and 95 in Lazio.
In an open letter to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, Vincenzo De Luca, president of the Campania region, complained that the central government had not provided promised ventilators and other life-saving equipment.
“At this point there is the real prospect that Lombardy’s tragedy is about to become the south’s tragedy,” he said. “We are on the eve of a major expansion of infections which may not be sustainable.”
On Thursday, Mr Conte told the Italian Senate that all of Europe would be hit by a “hard, severe” recession following the coronavirus emergency, and that “extraordinary and exceptional measures” were needed to face the shock.
With analysts predicting that the strict measures will result in Italy sliding into its deepest recession in a generation, Mr Conte promised a second stimulus package worth at least €25bn (£23bn; $27bn).