MILAN: The death toll from the COVID-19 epidemic in Italy rose by 681 to 15,362, a somewhat lower rise than those seen in recent days, while the number of patients in intensive care fell for the first time, the Civil Protection Agency said on Saturday (Apr 4).

“It is important because it allows our hospitals to breathe. This is the first time that this figure has fallen since we started managing the emergency,” agency chief Angelo Borrelli told reporters.

The total number of confirmed cases rose to 124,632 from 119,827 reported on Friday, an increase of 4,805, slightly higher than the numbers over recent days which have encouraged hopes that the spread of the disease has reached a plateau.

Of those originally infected nationwide, 20,996 were declared recovered on Saturday, compared with 19,758 a day earlier.

There were 3,994 people in intensive care, down from a previous 4,068, the first time the total had fallen since the outbreak of the epidemic in northern Italy on Feb 21.

“This figure is constantly decreasing,” Borrelli said of the death toll.

“I want to remind you that (on March 27), we almost had 1,000 dead.”

Italy recorded 969 deaths that day – a record that stood until the United States reported nearly 1,500 fatalities between Thursday and Friday.

The daily rise in new infections across Italy has also slowed to just four percent.

But Italian officials are still not declaring victory and instead are preparing the country for at least another month of life under a general lockdown.

The drop in critical care patients “is a strong signal but it should absolutely not be read as a sign that we have overcome the critical stage,” the government’s scientific council head Franco Locatelli said.

“It shows that the measures that we have been applying have had success.”

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