ROME – Europe saw further signs of hope in the coronavirus outbreak Sunday as Italy's daily death toll was at its lowest in more than two weeks and its infection curve was finally on a downward slope. In Spain, new deaths dropped for the third straight day.
But the optimism was tempered by Britain's jump in virus deaths that outpaced the daily toll in Italy.
Angelo Borrelli, the head of Italy's Civil Protection agency on Sunday, said there were 525 deaths in the 24-hour period since Saturday evening. That’s the lowest such figure in the country since 427 deaths were registered on March 19.
Italy now has a total of 15,887 deaths and nearly 129,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases.
A day shy of one month under a national lockdown that the Italian government ordered, the lower count of day-to-day deaths brought some encouragement.
The number of intensive care unit beds occupied by COVID-19 patients has also showed a decrease in the last few days, including in northern Lombardy, Italy’s most stricken region.
Borrelli also noted with a measure of satisfaction that the number of those hospitalized but not in ICU beds also has decreased.
Italy recorded 4,316 new cases Sunday. Earlier in the outbreak, daily increases in caseloads topped the 6,000 mark.
“The curve, which had been plateauing for days, is starting to descend,″ national health official Silvio Brusaferro told reporters, referring to graphs indicating daily numbers of confirmed cases.
But Borrelli warned: “This good news shouldn’t make us drop our guard."
For days, anticipating a possible downward slope in the curve, government and health authorities in Italy have cautioned that restrictions on movement would likely last in some form for weeks.
The virus causes mild to moderate symptoms in most people, but for some, especially older adults and the infirm, it can cause severe pneumonia and lead to death.
As warm, sunny weather beckoned across Europe, Queen Elizabeth II appealed to Britons to exercise self-discipline in “an increasingly challenging time."
Britain recorded 708 new coronavirus deaths Saturday while Italy reported 631 deaths that day. With 621 more deaths reported on Sunday, Britain has 4,934 virus deaths overall among 47,806 cases. Those coming down with the virus in the U.K. include Prime Minister Boris Johnson, the health secretary, England’s chief medical official and Prince Charles, heir to the British throne.
There are wide fears that Johnson’s Conservative government didn't take the virus seriously enough at first and that beautiful spring weather will tempt Britons and others to break social distancing rules.
Restrictions on movement vary from country to country. In Germany and Britain, residents can exercise and walk their dogs, as well as go to the supermarket and do other essential tasks.
Swedish authorities have advised the public to practice social distancing, but schools, bars and restaurants are still open.
Spain announced 6,023 confirmed new infections Sunday, taking its national tally to 130,759 but down from an increase of 7,026 infections in the previous day. Spain’s confirmed new virus deaths dropped for the third straight day, to 674 — the first time daily deaths have fallen below 800 in the past week.
“We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said.
Danica Kirka in London, David Rising in Berlin, and Joseph Wilson in Barcelona, Spain, contributed to this report.
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