Italy reports smallest increase of COVID-19 cases in over a month

Italy on Tuesday reported its lowest daily increase of coronavirus cases in more than a month, as several European countries made the first small steps toward relaxing lockdowns.

A worker with a protective mask constructs a beach house Tuesday in Italy’s Liguria region, where permission has been granted by authorities to begin preparations for the opening of the swimming season. Photo by Luca Zennaro

Italy’s Civil Protection Department reported 675 new cases, bringing its national total to about 104,000. The daily increase is the smallest since March 6, when the pandemic was first beginning to spread throughout Italy.

The number was also down dramatically from Monday, when 1,363 new cases were reported. Italy’s death toll is over 21,000, the highest in the world, and includes more than 100 doctors after four more caregivers died, the national doctors’ guild said.

With the decrease in cases, Italian officials began relaxing some lockdown restrictions. A handful of businesses including bookshops and children’s clothing stores were allowed to reopen Tuesday.

Social distancing restrictions are still being enforced at the stores, along with rules requiring all customers to wear protective masks and gloves.

In Spain, more non-essential workers from the construction and industrial sectors were allowed to return to their jobs, ending a two-week work freeze by the Spanish government on March 30.

The relaxation was opposed by the Catalan regional government, which called the decision by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez “imprudent and reckless.”

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi extended a lockdown Tuesday until May 3 to clamp down on the spread of the coronavirus. He said, however, some low-risk states may soon be permitted to lift some restrictions.

In a national address, Modi said the decision to extend the 21-day lockdown, originally set to end Tuesday, for another two weeks had support from health experts.

“From an economic only point of view, it, undoubtedly, looks costly right now, but measured against the lives of Indian citizens, there is no comparison itself,” Modi said.

Parts of India deemed at low risk may have certain restrictions eased, he added, but warned that they will return if lockdown rules are broken or there’s a further viral spread. Specifics of the extended lockdown will be released Wednesday, his office said.

After Modi’s speech, both the Directorate General of Civil Aviation India and the Ministry of Railways said the suspensions of their services will continue until May 3.

ByDon Jacobson & Darryl Coote