A patient in a biocontainment unit is carried on a stretcher at the Columbus Covid 2 Hospital in Rome, Monday, March 16, 2020. (Photo: AP)
ROME, March 16 (Xinhua) -- Nearly 2,500 new cases of coronavirus were recorded in Italy in the last 24 hours, pushing the total number of active cases in the country to more than 23,000, Civil Protection officials said Monday.
But the increase could signal the start of a tipping point for the outbreak in Italy, as the growth rate is the lowest in percentage terms since March 1, officials said.
The total number of new cases of COVID-19 between Sunday and Monday was 2,470, down from 2,853 between Saturday and Sunday.
"We are missing some data and so the final tally may change, but we can say there is a decrease in the rate of increase," said Angelo Borrelli, head of Italy's Civil Protection Department. "We are looking at this figure on the rate of increase with a great deal of attention. It is a sign of how much the measures are making an impact."
Borrelli predicted a "consolidation" of the data in the next two days, meaning that the data will start to reinforce the slowing trend.
"The hope is that we will continue to see a slowdown in the rate of increase and then we can be even more sure our country has taken an important step forward," he said.
"Today's data reflects the contagion rate from 12 to 14 days ago," Franco Locatelli, president of Italy's Higher Council of Health, said.
"We will have to wait a few more days to see a more complete reduction in the number of infected subjects and, more importantly, a marked reduction in the number of patients under intensive care."
Among the other data released Monday, officials revealed that the death toll rose to 2,158 compared to 1,809 a day earlier. The number of cured individuals is 2,749, up from 2,335 previously.
Of those ill, 10,197 are resting in isolation at home, 11,025 are hospitalized with symptoms, and 1,851 are in intensive care. Those figures are all up from 9,268, 9,663, and 1,672, respectively.
With 23,073 active cases of coronavirus, Italy is the hardest-hit country outside China. The 2,158 deaths from the virus in Italy is also second only to the total in China.