Italy coronavirus toll nears 7,000 with 743 new deaths

By Giada Zampano

ROME (AA) – Italy on Tuesday reported 743 new deaths from coronavirus, bringing the number of total deaths to 6,820, still the highest in the world.

The latest figures provided by the Italian Civil Protection Department show that the total number of cases in the country continues to grow, but at a slower pace for the third day in a row.

Confirmed contagions rose 7% from Monday to reach 54,030. The total number of recovered or healed people reached 8,326.

The epicenter of the Italian outbreak remains the northern Lombardy region, which counts alone 4,178 victims.

As Italy faces a crucial week to confirm if a trend reversal has been achieved in terms of new daily infections, the government continues to struggle on how to handle the emergency.

Guido Bertolaso, an emergency expert recalled at work by the Lombardy region to handle the outbreak, said on Tuesday he had tested positive, sparking new criticism.

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The Italian Cabinet on Tuesday approved a new decree that introduces stronger sanctions and higher fines for citizens who breach the stricter lockdown rules.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Saturday announced new lockdown rules to tackle the virus contagion, bringing to a halt all the country’s non-strategic firms. But the measures were criticized by both opposition parties, business groups, and trade unions.

Unions have threatened a nation-wide strike to protest against the measures and the government's management of the crisis.

After emerging in Wuhan, China last December the coronavirus has spread to at least 169 countries and regions. The World Health Organization has declared the outbreak a pandemic.

According to data compiled by U.S.-based Johns Hopkins University, the number of confirmed cases worldwide is more than 407,400 with the death toll exceeding 18,200, while over 103,300 have recovered.