A child, part of a small group aged between 6 to 10 years-old, gets his temperature taken before returning to school as part of a pilot test to see how social distancing can work in schools throughout the region of Piedmont, proposed by the mayor of Borgosesia Paolo Tiramani, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, near Vercelli, Italy, May 12, 2020. (Photo: Agencies)
ROME - Italy's accumulated coronavirus cases reached 234,013 on Thursday, up by 177 compared to the previous day, confirming the downward trend in new infections, the country's Civil Protection Department said.
The number of new infections is lower than the 321 new cases recorded Wednesday.
According to the latest daily data, active infections stood at 38,429, a decrease of 868 from a day earlier.
Of those active infections, 338 are in intensive care, down by 15 compared to Wednesday, and 5,503 are hospitalized with symptoms, down by 239, the Civil Protection Department said.
The remaining 32,588, or about 85 percent, are isolated at home because they are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.
The country's death toll grew by 88 to 33,689 over the past 24 hours, the Civil Protection said in its bulletin.
The same period saw 957 new recoveries, which brought to 161,895 the total number of people recovered since the pandemic broke out in the northern regions in late February.
As the pandemic slowed down visibly in recent weeks, Italy further eased the lockdown.
From Wednesday, people in Italy were allowed to move freely within the country. Travel restrictions were also eased the same day, so travelers from Schengen countries, Non-Schengen EU member states, the United Kingdom, Andorra and Monaco can visit the country without subjecting to quarantine.
PUPILS' SAFETY "ESSENTIAL"
Emergency officials said that the government is straining to ensure the best safety for pupils and teachers ahead of the high school final exams, due to take place starting from mid-June.
"We are about to send 5.2 million facemasks to the schools, since it is essential that our kids can take their final exams safely," Commissioner for the Coronavirus Emergency Domenico Arcuri told a press conference.
As all schools and universities in the country have remained physically closed for the whole COVID-19 emergency -- with teaching based on distance-learning methods only -- the Education Ministry stated that upper secondary schools students would take their final exams in indoor classrooms.
This will involve some 480,000 students.
"The distribution (of the masks) to the 3,595 institutes across the country, where final exams will take place starting from June 17, has started today," Arcuri specified.
Meanwhile, 1.15 million people have so far downloaded the COVID-19 contact-tracing app Immuni on their mobile phones, according to Arcuri.
The mobile app to trace coronavirus infections was officially launched by national health authorities on Monday.
The app is based on Bluetooth -- with no geo-localization -- to record the mobile phone users' movements, and is being used voluntarily and anonymously.
LIQUIDITY DECREE BECOMES LAW
With a confidence vote on Thursday morning, the Italian senate passed the cabinet's decree that ensures liquidity to companies in distress as a result of the coronavirus emergency.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's cabinet had issued the decree in April, and the provision needed the approval by both houses of the Italian parliament within 60 days to become law.
The cabinet asked for a confidence vote on the decree in both lower house and senate in order to cut short the parliamentary debate. The lower house had approved it in late May.