As Italy's COVID-19 deaths decrease, experts urge caution when lifting lockdown

ArtistGNDphotography/iStockBy MEGAN WILLIAMS and CARMEN COX, ABC News

(ROME) — Almost seven weeks after its national lockdown began, Italy’s daily deaths from the novel coronavirus are decreasing. But experts warn Italians not to let their guard down.

The number of daily recorded COVID-19 deaths is down by about half from the number of daily deaths at its peak in late March. There were 415 new deaths reported in the past 24 hours for a total of 26,384 total deaths.

Italy has had 195,351 total active, deceased and cured cases since first reports on January 31.

The number of hospitalizations also continues to decline. The total number of hospital patients dropped by 606. There were 71 fewer ICU patients and 535 fewer in regular hospital care.

But as Italy prepares to ease the lockdown, health experts are urging caution.

Dr. Silvio Brusaferro, the head of Italy’s top health agency, warned, “The virus is still circulating,” according to The Local.

The novel coronavirus reproduction rate in Italy is now between 0.2-0.7. On March 10 — the day the lockdown started — that rate was between 2 and 3, meaning each infected person was infecting an average of two to three others.

Experts caution that the ideal rate to lift lockdown would be zero.

But with the country’s economy tanking, Italian leadership might be willing to take a calculated risk.

Still, experts warn that if mask wearing and social distancing are discontinued when the lockdown lifts May 4, it could take as few as two weeks for the virus reproduction rate to shoot back up.

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