• he number of new cases of coronavirus dropped by 771 on Monday.
  • Officials voice cautious optimism that the lockdown is working.
  • Italy’s first known case of local transmission leaves the hospital.

The number of new cases of COVID-19 coronavirus in Italy fell for the second day in a row yesterday, raising hopes that the lockdown enforced two weeks ago is working.

Italy recorded 4,789 new cases of coronavirus on Monday, compared with 5,560 new cases on Sunday, and 6,557 on Saturday. The death toll also fell to 602, from 651 and 793 on Sunday and Saturday, respectively.

On the same day, the man known in Italy as Patient No. 1 was released from hospital a month after he arrived in critically-ill condition.

Cumulative confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in Italy and China.
Cumulative confirmed deaths from COVID-19 in Italy and China.
Image: Reuters Graphics

Giulio Gallera, the top health official in Italy’s northern region of Lombardy, which has been hardest hit by the outbreak, told reporters on Monday: “Today is perhaps the first positive day we have had in this hard, very tough month. It is not the time to sing victory, but we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Health officials stressed caution, noting that there was also a significant fall in the number of tests carried out. Silvio Brusaferro, the head of Italy’s national health institute, said it was too soon to say if the recent decline in daily deaths and new cases would continue.

He told the Associated Press: “We need more consecutive results to confirm the trend, to be more certain that we are in a favorable situation.”

Italy has suffered the deadliest outbreak of coronavirus. As of Monday, 6,077 people have died from the disease in the country, which has recorded 63,927 confirmed cases.

The Italian government imposed a nationwide lockdown on 10 March. The measures stopped people from leaving their homes except to go to work, to shop for food or other necessities, to exercise or walk dogs for brief periods, or perform essential tasks like caring for an elderly relative.

On 22 March, it extended restrictions, closing all non-essential businesses and banning any movement inside the country other than for “non-deferrable and proven business or health reasons or other urgent matters”.

A police officer wearing a protective face mask controls travel documents allowing to leave a home, as the Italian government continues restrictive movement measures to combat the coronavirus outbreak, in Catania, Italy March 14, 2020. REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello - RC2MJF9OSB99
Police have enforced the lockdown across Italy.
Image: REUTERS/Antonio Parrinello

There was another glimmer of hope as the 38-year-old man – Patient No. 1 – initially believed to be the first source of local transmission in Italy, released an audio message, telling the world: “You can get cured of this illness”.

According to the Associated Press, Mattia, a Unilever worker, first went to a Pavia hospital on 18 February complaining of flu-like symptoms. He spent 18 days in intensive care on a respirator.

Italian doctors have said they suspect the virus was circulating in Italy even before Mattia’s case and some patients who died of pneumonia last autumn may have had coronavirus.