ROME, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- Italy's coronavirus infection and mortality rates remained in a holding pattern through Thursday even as the pandemic flared up in other parts of Europe.
But patients in Italian intensive care units still crept higher, something medical experts said could prove to be a sign that other key indicators might start to rise as well.
All told, Italy on Thursday recorded 1,786 new cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, up from 1,640 the previous day. There were 23 new deaths from COVID-19, and the number of patients in intensive care units climbed to 246, 2 more than the previous day, and an increase from 197 just 10 days ago.
According to the GIMBE Foundation, a health sector observatory group, the increase in patients in intensive-care units was a worrying sign.
"There aren't any indications that the virus is completely under control," said Nino Cartabellotta, the foundation's president.
Still, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Thursday said there was no risk of another national lockdown like the one that severely restricted travel and economic activity in the country between March and May. But Conte said that localized lockdowns would continue to be applied wherever the clusters of infected people appeared.
Schools across the country are now open, sparking fears that despite health restrictions that by all counts are being followed the movement of 8 million students between school and home could increase the national infection rate.
According to media reports, at least 350 schools nationally have recorded at least one positive case of the coronavirus and more than 60 schools are closed based on fears of the outbreak.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Health released information showing that schools have so far received more than 135 million masks and more than 600,000 liters of disinfectant gel.
Italian health officials said the country is stepping up preparations for the upcoming flu season. In a typical year, 6 to 8 million Italians catch the flu, and the country has stockpiled 17.5 million doses of flu vaccine to help confront the problem. But officials said that some of the measures used to prevent the spread of the coronavirus will also be effective in limiting the spread of the flu.
Italy's daily coronavirus infection rate has now been above 1,000 for all but 4 days since Aug. 22, a level that before that date had not been seen since May. But at its worst, in March and April, the pandemic was infecting more than 6,000 people a day in Italy.
The country's mortality rate tells a similar tale: Thursday's 23 new deaths is 3 more than the previous day and the second-highest total recorded since July 7. But the figure has remained below 25 in recent weeks and in some days deaths still dip into single figures. Death rates for Italy peaked on March 27 at 969.
Overall, Italy has now recorded 304,323 cases of the coronavirus since February, and the number of active cases climbed to 46,780 on Thursday, its highest level since May 28. On Thursday, the Ministry of Health reported 1,097 patients recovered from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing that total to 221,762 since the start of the pandemic.
Currently, Italy and other countries across the globe -- including China, Russia, Britain, and the U.S. -- are racing to find a coronavirus vaccine.
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