Coronavirus cases in Italy have passed 1,000 in a day for the first time since rigid lockdown measures were eased three months ago.
The country’s health ministry said on Saturday it had recorded 1,071 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, the first time the total has passed 1,000 since 12 May and up from 947 on Friday.
Experts put the increase down to large gatherings caused by holidays and nightlife, a theory confirmed by the fact many infections were found in travellers who were tested as they disembarked from aeroplanes or ferries.
The last time the country registered a higher daily total was 12 May, when 1,402 cases were reported.
Six days later, restaurants, bars and shops were allowed to reopen following a 10-week lockdown.
But the steady rise in cases has not caused a spike in deaths, which are often in single figures.
Three people died after being diagnosed with the illness on Saturday, while nine passed away on Friday and six the day before.
Italy, one of the worst-hit countries in Europe, has suffered more than 35,000 deaths during the pandemic from more than 258,000 cases.
But a strict lockdown imposed in March has managed to contain the outbreak and the number of new infections is still considerably lower than those of France and Spain.
The worst-affected area on Saturday was Lazio, the south central region including Rome, where 215 new cases were registered.
Of these, around 60% were people returning from holidays in other parts of Italy and abroad, the region’s health chief said.
Nearly half (45%) were from people returning from Sardinia, where several clusters have been linked to nightclubs or private parties in the Emerald Coast resort area, officials said.
The northern regions of Lombardy and Veneto, where Italy’s epidemic emerged in February, saw 185 and 160 new cases respectively.Some European countries see coronavirus spikes of more than 70% – here’s what’s happening where
In a sign of how the threat of the pandemic has changed, the average age of infection is now 30, down from around 70 early in the outbreak.
Italy has taken countermeasures to try to stem the recent rise, shutting down clubs and discos and making it compulsory to wear a mask at night in outdoor public spaces.
Travellers from several non-EU countries have been banned from entering Italy, with restrictions and testing obligations imposed on people returning from hard-hit European countries.