More than 99 per cent of Italy’s coronavirus fatalities were people who suffered from previous medical conditions, according to a study by the country’s national health authority.
After deaths from the virus reached more than 2,500, with a 150 per cent increase in the past week, health authorities have been combing through data to provide clues to help combat the disease’s spread.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s government is evaluating whether to extend a nationwide lockdown beyond the beginning of April, daily La Stampa reported on Wednesday. Italy has more than 31,500 confirmed cases of the illness.
The new study could provide insight into why Italy’s death rate, at about 8 per cent of total infected people, is higher than in other countries.
The Rome-based institute has examined medical records of about 18 per cent of the country’s coronavirus fatalities, finding that just three victims, or 0.8 per cent of the total, had no previous pathology.
Almost half of the victims suffered from at least three prior illnesses and about a fourth had either one or two previous conditions.
More than 75 per cent had high blood pressure, about 35 per cent had diabetes and a third suffered from heart disease.
The average age of those who have died from the virus in Italy is 79.5. As of March 17, 17 people under 50 had died from the disease. All of Italy’s victims under 40 have been males with serious existing medical conditions.
While data released on Tuesday points to a slowdown in the increase of cases, with a 12.6 per cent rise, a separate study shows Italy could be underestimating the real number of cases by testing only patients presenting symptoms.
According to the GIMBE Foundation, about 100,000 Italians have contracted the virus, daily Il Sole 24 Ore reported. That would bring back the country’s death rate closer to the global average of about 2 per cent.
Meanwhile, the governor of the Italian region hardest hit by infections warned citizens that if they do not stay in their homes as they should, he will ask the central government for even stricter measures.
Italian authorities say too many people are violating last week’s national decree, which allows people to leave homes to go to workplaces, buy food or other necessities or for brief strolls outside to walk dogs or get exercise.
Of hundreds of thousands of people stopped by police for checks, tens of thousands have received a summons for going out without valid reasons.
Lombardy governor Attilio Fontana told a news conference on Wednesday that “every time out of the house is a time you put yourself at risk and put others at risk” for catching Covid-19’’.
An Italian government minister hinted that some measures such as school closures would be extended past their April 3 expiration date. “I do not exclude it,” Transport Minister Paola De Micheli said.
Pope Francis stressed on Wednesday the importance of families and friends making small gestures such as hugs and phone calls during times of isolation in a pandemic.
“We must rediscover the concrete nature of small things, of making small gestures toward those around us – family, friends,” the 83-year-old pontiff told the La Repubblica newspaper.
“They are gestures of tenderness, of affection, of compassion, which are nonetheless decisive and important – for example, a hot dish, a caress, a hug, a phone call.”
Italian rules instruct everyone to keep one metre (3.3 feet) apart while in public but say nothing about what people can do at home.