Italy's COVID-19 cases total 1,694, vast majority not serious


People shelter against the rain with umbrellas as they walk along the Rialto bridge on a rainy day in Venice, Sunday, March 1, 2020. (Photo: AP)

ROME, March 1 (Xinhua) -- The number of Italians infected by the coronavirus "continues to accelerate," Giovanni Rezza, head of the Italian High Institute of Health's Department of Infectious Diseases, said Sunday, adding that the country was at least a week away from seeing a peak in the outbreak.

According to Angelo Borrelli, Civil Protection Department chief and Extraordinary Commissioner for the coronavirus emergency, the total number of COVID-19 cases in Italy reached 1,577 -- or 1,694 including those healed or died.

That is an increase from 1,128 a day earlier, or 1,049 excluding those who died or were cured. The death toll in Italy so far is 34, an increase of three over the past 24 hours.

Most of those infected are in the northern part of the country, with 984 cases in Lombardy, 285 in Emilia-Romagna, and 263 in Veneto. All told, 15 regions and one autonomous province have seen infections. But those three regions are the only ones with triple-digit infections.

Borrelli stressed that the vast majority of the COVID-19 cases were not serious -- more than half of those infected are recovering at home with at the worst mild symptoms. Another 41 percent were recovering with symptoms.

Only 9 percent of those infected, or 140 people -- 106 of whom are in Lombardy -- are in intensive care, the Department of Civil Defense said.

The department also said that the number of Italian residents cured of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, reached 83, an increase of 33 compared to Saturday.

Among those cured, a 98-year-old woman, believed to be the oldest person in the world to have been infected and cured of COVID-19.

"The number of serious cases remains small in percentage terms, and that continues to be the case even as the total number of infections continues to accelerate," said Rezza.

Rezza added that since most containment measures were put into place in Italy only a week ago, and given that the incubation period for the virus appears to be 12 or 13 days, that peak acceleration in Italy was still several days away.

"The data implies we will likely see a slowdown starting in about one week or ten days," Rezza said.