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Italy starts serological screening as coronavirus death toll rises to 32,877

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-05-26 09:14

A staff member checks the temperature of a woman before entering, as the swimming pool at the Sporting Club Ostiense reopens with new social distancing and hygiene rules after months of closure due to an outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Rome, Italy, May 25, 2020. [Photo/Agencies]

ROME - A further 92 COVID-19 patients have died in the past 24 hours in Italy, bringing the country's toll to 32,877 out of 230,158 cases of infection, the Civil Protection Department said on Monday.

Nationwide, the number of active infections dropped by 1,294 to 55,300 cases.

Of those who tested positive for the new coronavirus, 541 are in intensive care, 12 fewer compared to Sunday, and 8,185 are hospitalized with symptoms, down by 428 patients from Sunday.

The rest, 46,574 people, or about 84 percent of those who tested positive, are quarantined at home with no or only mild symptoms.

Recoveries rose by 1,502 compared to Sunday, bringing the nationwide total to 141,981.

Meanwhile, Italy started serological screening tests at the national level on Monday on a sample of 150,000 people to better understand how much the virus has spread across the resident population, and to ramp up the fight against the pandemic.

The screening will be carried out by some 700 volunteers of the Italian Red Cross through 21 regional operative centers under the coordination of a national support center, the Health Ministry stated.

The sample of the population, selected with the help of the National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT), includes six different age groups categorized according to gender, employment profile and region of residence.

The highest number of tests will be carried out in northern Lombardy (13,000), Veneto (13,000), Emilia Romagna (12,000) and Piedmont (10,000) -- the four regions most affected by the pandemic -- followed by the others according to their epidemiological situation.

Each person will take part in the screening on a voluntary basis only, and his/her personal data would remain anonymous and protected, the Health Ministry specified.

In case the serological test is positive -- suggesting the person has been exposed to the coronavirus and is developing immunity (even without symptoms of the disease) -- a swab test would follow to confirm or dismiss the result.

In related news on Monday, Italy's Regional Affairs Minister Francesco Boccia warned that the easing of restrictions on inter-regional movement -- planned on June 3 -- might be postponed if Italians were not to behave prudently in their social life.

This warning came after gatherings of people -- in several cases not respecting social distancing rules and not wearing face masks -- were seen in nightlife areas in some cities on Saturday and Sunday, including in northern Milan, Brescia (the seaside city of Rimini), some areas in Rome, and Messina in Sicily, according to the respective local authorities.

"We were not surprised by what took place last weekend," Boccia told La Stampa newspaper in an interview.

"It is understandable for people to be eager to stay outdoors after two months (of lockdown). However, we cannot forget we are still in the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Most citizens are respecting the rules and they are outraged at seeing the behavior of the few (who do not)," he stressed.

He explained that next weekend the government will evaluate the latest data on the contagion and it might deem it "unavoidable to take all the necessary time" before allowing inter-regional movement again.

The spread of the virus has perceptibly slowed down in recent weeks after first striking the country in late February. On May 18, the ten-week lockdown imposed on March 10 was further eased and shops, restaurants, bars, barbershops, beauty salons, museums and beachfront operators were all allowed to reopen on condition that they respect the rules on social distancing and regularly disinfect their facilities.

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