On Monday, the Gimbe Foundation reported that hospitalizations due to coronavirus are on the rise again in Italy. This could signal a potential surge in cases during the upcoming winter.
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The number of patients in intensive care units rose by nearly 22 percent during the week ending Nov. 17. The increase in intensive care unit admissions was faster than that for overall coronavirus-related hospital admissions, which increased by nearly 10 percent over the same period.
Total coronavirus infections also rose, with around 208,000 reported in the same time period, up from 181,000 the previous week. This represents a spike of 15 percent. Nevertheless, weekly deaths were down by 2.9 percent.
"With circulation of the virus on the rise, we expect the government will soon release a plan of action for the winter," the Gimbe Foundation president Nino Cartabellotta said, adding that health officials have been urging caution as the weather cools and more activities move indoors, creating more favorable conditions for the spread of the virus.
Last week, however, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said the COVID-19 has entered into an "endemic phase", meaning that although it will not disappear, it will remain under control.
The coronavirus should be approached in the same way as influenza, noting that many people test positive while remaining asymptomatic. Nonetheless, Schillaci urged those most vulnerable to infection to wear masks.
Italy has been distributing fourth vaccine doses, although data shows that the rate of distribution is down compared to previous rounds of the vaccination program.
As of Monday, the country had distributed 142.5 million doses. About 88.6 percent of the country's residents over the age of 12, or 42.3 million people, had received the full vaccination cycle plus at least one booster shot, or had recovered from a coronavirus infection in previous four months. Meanwhile, 4.9 million residents had received a second booster shot.
The number of intensive care unit patients in the week ending Nov. 17 rose to 247, compared to 203 a week earlier -- an increase of 21.7 percent. The total number of hospitalizations was up by 9.8 percent compared to a week earlier, to 6,981.
The Gimbe Foundation bases its calculations on official data provided by the Health Ministry, which last week stopped publicly releasing daily data on the pandemic. This is due to policies introduced by the new Italian government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni.
As of Nov. 17, the date of the last daily report, the country had recorded 24.0 million individual cases since February 2020, and more than 180,000 deaths.