• Barron Martins

Italy Reports Most New Coronavirus Cases in a Week

Italy reported its highest number of new coronavirus cases in a week, a day after the government moved to extend the country’s lockdown with only slight concessions to businesses demanding a restart of the economy.

There were 4,694 new cases of the disease, compared with 3,951 a day earlier, civil protection officials said. The rise comes as testing continues to surge, with a record number of tests conducted at the end of the week and about 110,000 performed in recent days, health officials said. Confirmed cases in the country now total 152,271.

Italy registered 619 deaths linked to the virus in the last 24 hours, compared with 570 the day before. That brings the total number of fatalities to 19,468.

In a combative Friday evening news conference, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced he was extending Italy’s nationwide lockdown until May 3, rejecting pressure from businesses and opposition politicians who’ve clamored to restart the economy.

The sweeping restrictions, which include a ban on all non-essential business, have battered the country’s already weak economy, but Conte and medical and scientific experts have argued that the risk of sparking a second wave of infections by relaxing curbs now remains too high. The euro area’s third-biggest economy is poised to shrink by 15% this year, according to UniCredit SpA.

Conte held out the prospect of a gradual restart to normal life after May 3, though strict health protocols would remain in force, and named Vittorio Colao, former chief executive officer of Vodafone Group Plc, to head a task force that will help map Italy’s exit from the lockdown. The country “can’t wait for the virus to disappear completely,” Conte said.

The Friday decision reflects a pattern playing out in many parts of Europe as health officials and politicians warn against letting up too early on restrictions to stem the spread of the coronavirus and avoid a second wave of infections.

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