Coronavirus infections in Lombardy, Italy’s hardest hit region in the first wave of Covid-19, have more than doubled in a day and cases across the country have eclipsed 15,000.
Cases in Lombardy leapt to 4,126 in the last 24 hours, of which 1,858 were registered in the economic hub of Milan.
Walter Ricciardi, the scientist advising the health ministry, said the situation in Milan, as well as in Rome and Naples, was already out of control.
Giuseppe Conte’s government is reportedly considering more restrictive measures, which might be announced at the weekend.
Michele Usuelli, a doctor and Lombardy councillor for the small, leftwing party Più Europa, said that 70% of the region’s new infections had occurred in people under the age of 50. “We are not afraid for them, but we are afraid that they can infect chronically ill and elderly people,” he said.
Hospitals in Milan are struggling to cope and coronavirus outbreaks are starting to occur within them – 25 people, among them medics and patients, were infected after an outbreak in the cardiology unit of Sacco hospital.
Temporary hospitals set up in conference centres during the first phase of the pandemic are to reopen in Milan and Bergamo, the province that was Italy’s initial “ground zero” but where today the situation is currently stable. The move would initially provide Lombardy with an additional 201 beds in intensive care.
Regarding the hospital situation, Usuelli said: “Sub-intensive care is bad, intensive care is not so bad, and the number of deaths is not so bad.”
Lombardy authorities are moving towards a curfew from Thursday night to help contain the virus after experts warned that without that measure there would be a surge in intensive care and general hospital admissions by the end of October.
However, the signing of a final document that would enforce the curfew has been held up by the intervention of Matteo Salvini, whose far-right League party leads the region. The curfew is expected to run from 11pm until 5am and will be in place until 13 November.
Medium sized and large shopping centres are also expected to be ordered to close at the weekends, although there will be exceptions for shops selling food.
“Before closing everything, I just want to understand,” Salvini said after it was announced that central government had given the go-ahead for the curfew.
Usuelli said that as of Wednesday afternoon the document had not yet been signed. “The measure was suggested by a group of experts who said it should reduce the impact on the hospital admission numbers they forecast. But in fact much stricter measures were suggested.”