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Italy maintain perfect record with easy win in Liechtenstein

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Italy maintained their perfect record in Group J and clocked up their ninth international win in a row with a 5-0 thumping of Liechtenstein on Tuesday.

Nothing but a perfect record was at stake for the Italians on Tuesday, as they had already qualified for Euro 2020.

Federico Bernardeschi set Italy on the way in the second minute before Andrea Belotti added a brace.

Alessio Romagnoli and Stephan El Shaarawy added further goals in the final 20 minutes as Roberto Mancini’s team made it eight wins out of eight in the group.

Elsewhere in the group, Teemu Pukki scored twice as Finland beat Armenia 3-0 to strengthen their grip on second place and move closer to a first-ever appearance at either the Euro or World Cup finals.

Fredrik Jensen opened the scoring in the 31st minute.

Finland, who have 15 points from eight games, moved five clear of both Armenia and Bosnia & Herzegovina, who lost 2-1 in Greece, with two games each to play. (Reuters/NAN)

KIA/JPE/MZA

Edited by Joseph Edeh/Maharazu Ahmed

Foreign

Roundup: Italy confirms downward trend in new infections, facemasks ready for high school exams

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Italy’s accumulated coronavirus cases reached 234,013 on Thursday, up by 177 compared to the previous day, confirming the downward trend in new infections, the country’s Civil Protection Department said.

The number of new infections is lower than the 321 new cases recorded Wednesday.

According to the latest daily data, active infections stood at 38,429, a decrease of 868 from a day earlier.

Of those active infections, 338 are in intensive care, down by 15 compared to Wednesday, and 5,503 are hospitalized with symptoms, down by 239, the Civil Protection Department said.

The remaining 32,588, or about 85 percent, are isolated at home because they are asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.

The country’s death toll grew by 88 to 33,689 over the past 24 hours, the Civil Protection said in its bulletin.

The same period saw 957 new recoveries, which brought to 161,895 the total number of people recovered since the pandemic broke out in the northern regions in late February.

As the pandemic slowed down visibly in recent weeks, Italy further eased the lockdown.

From Wednesday, people in Italy were allowed to move freely within the country. Travel restrictions were also eased the same day, so travelers from Schengen countries, Non-Schengen EU member states, the United Kingdom, Andorra and Monaco can visit the country without subjecting to quarantine.

PUPILS’ SAFETY “ESSENTIAL”

Emergency officials said that the government is straining to ensure the best safety for pupils and teachers ahead of the high school final exams, due to take place starting from mid-June.

“We are about to send 5.2 million facemasks to the schools, since it is essential that our kids can take their final exams safely,” Commissioner for the Coronavirus Emergency Domenico Arcuri told a press conference.

As all schools and universities in the country have remained physically closed for the whole COVID-19 emergency — with teaching based on distance-learning methods only — the Education Ministry stated that upper secondary schools students would take their final exams in indoor classrooms.

This will involve some 480,000 students.

“The distribution (of the masks) to the 3,595 institutes across the country, where final exams will take place starting from June 17, has started today,” Arcuri specified.

Meanwhile, 1.15 million people have so far downloaded the COVID-19 contact-tracing app Immuni on their mobile phones, according to Arcuri.

The mobile app to trace coronavirus infections was officially launched by national health authorities on Monday.

The app is based on Bluetooth — with no geo-localization — to record the mobile phone users’ movements, and is being used voluntarily and anonymously.

LIQUIDITY DECREE BECOMES LAW

With a confidence vote on Thursday morning, the Italian senate passed the cabinet’s decree that ensures liquidity to companies in distress as a result of the coronavirus emergency.

Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte‘s cabinet had issued the decree in April, and the provision needed the approval by both houses of the Italian parliament within 60 days to become law.

The cabinet asked for a confidence vote on the decree in both lower house and senate in order to cut short the parliamentary debate. The lower house had approved it in late May.

(XINHUA)

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Italy’s COVID-19 death toll rises by 88 to 33,689

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Italy recorded another 88 COVID-19 victims in the past 24 hours, bringing the national death toll to 33,689, the Civil Protection Department said on Thursday.

Total active infections stood at 38,429, an decrease of 868 from Wednesday. Meanwhile, another 957 COVID-19 patients recovered, bringing the total to 161,895 on Thursday.

Of those active infections, 338 are in intensive care, down by 15 compared to Wednesday, and 5,503 are hospitalized with symptoms, down by 239, the Civil Protection Department said. The remaining 32,588, or about 85 percent, are isolated at home because they are asymptomatic or have very light symptoms.

The overall number of COVID-19 cases combining active infections, fatalities and recoveries rose by 177 to 234,013 cases over the past 24 hours.

The pandemic began in late February in northern Italy. As it slowed down visibly in recent weeks, Italy further eased the 10-week lockdown.

From Wednesday, people in Italy were allowed to move freely within the country. Travel restrictions were also eased the same day, so travelers from EU and Schengen countries, as well as the United Kingdom, Andorra and Monaco can visit the country without subjecting to a quarantine.

(XINHUA)

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Spotlight: Africa’s COVID-19 caseload nearing 160,000, while Italy partially reopens border

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With the novel coronavirus still in pandemic mode, the African continent has seen a continued growth in the total tally, while Italy, an earlier epicenter of the pandemic in Europe, has begun to partially lift travel bans as its new infections are dropping.

RISING AFRICAN CASELOAD

As of Wednesday afternoon, the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases across the African continent surpassed 158,318, and the death toll surged to 4,508, the Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) said.

The continental disease control and prevention agency also disclosed that some 67,630 people who have been infected with the disease have recovered across the continent so far.

On Tuesday, Africa CDC said the virus has spread to 54 African countries. Figures from the agency showed that the highly affected countries include South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Algeria, Ghana and Morocco.

It also said that the Northern African region is the most affected area across the continent both in terms of positive COVID-19 cases and the number of deaths, followed by the Western Africa region.

South Africa, the worst-hit country on the continent, on Tuesday reported a total of 35,812 confirmed COVID-19 cases. According to the latest data compiled by the Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins University, the tally now stood at 37,525.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) on Wednesday projected that the ongoing pandemic could push 29 million people into extreme poverty across the continent.

The UNECA further stressed that the containment measures established in African countries “have already cost the region some 69 billion U.S. dollars per month and are expected to have a negative impact on the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals in the region.”

EASING TRAVEL BAN

Italy, earlier an epicenter of COVID-19 in Europe, partially reopened its border on Wednesday after closing it to all but essential travel for nearly three months.

Starting from the day, people in Italy are allowed to move freely within the country. Cross-border travel restrictions were also eased on the same day, with travelers from the European Union and Schengen countries, as well as the United Kingdom, Andorra and Monaco being allowed to visit the country without subjecting to quarantine.

The step was part of a wider strategy to help restart the Italian tourism industry, which was shuttered along with the rest of the Italian economy at the start of the national lockdown on March 10.

“A month from May 4, when we reopened our manufacturing and construction sectors, we can say the numbers are encouraging,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a nationally televised press conference Wednesday.

“The trend of new cases is constantly decreasing in all our regions,” he said. “This shows the strategy we adopted is and has been the right one.”

He added that the government is hard at work to ensure Italy is once again “the safe and coveted destination of the tourists of Europe and the whole world.”

Health Minister Roberto Speranza, meanwhile, sounded a note of warning to Italian citizens.

“We must proceed with caution and continue to follow the rules we have learned … because they are the key in the battle against COVID-19,” Speranza said in reference to social distancing in a statement released on Wednesday. “The virus is still very dangerous.”

Fresh figures on Wednesday showed that 71 new COVID-19 deaths were registered in the past 24 hours, taking the country’s death toll to 33,601, out of a total of 233,836 infection cases.

(XINHUA)

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Italy lifts national and European travel ban as pandemic slows down

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People in Italy will be allowed to move freely within the country from Wednesday and the travel restrictions were also eased the same day with travelers from European Union (EU) and Schengen countries, as well as the United Kingdom, Andorra and Monaco being allowed to visit the country without subjecting to quarantine.

“A month from May 4, when we reopened our manufacturing and construction sectors, we can say the numbers are encouraging,” Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said in a nationally televised press conference on Wednesday evening.

“The trend of new cases is constantly decreasing in all our regions,” said the prime minister. “This shows the strategy we adopted is and has been the right one.”

As of today, European tourists can also travel to Italy,” he added. “They can visit our country without subjecting to quarantine.”

He added the government is hard at work to ensure Italy is once again “the safe and coveted destination of the tourists of Europe and the whole world.”

“The acute phase of the health emergency is behind us, but now we face the economic and social emergency,” Conte said.

“This crisis must also be an opportunity to design the country we want — to innovate from the ground up, to overcome structural problems we’ve been dragging for years,” Conte said.

He said “we have a historic opportunity” because the EU is planning a multi-billion-euro Recovery Fund and Italy will likely receive a lot of this money as one of the hardest-hit countries in Europe.

“We must know how to spend this money well,” Conte said as he outlined his “Recovery Plan” for Italy, which he said “rests on several pillars.”

He listed modernization, digitalization, innovation, tax and justice reform, cutting red tape, transitioning to sustainable energy, and building a high-speed train network linking the south of Italy to the rest of the country as key elements of the plan.

Meanwhile Health Minister Roberto Speranza sounded a note of warning to his fellow citizens.

“We must proceed with caution and continue to follow the rules we have learned … because they are the key in the battle against COVID-19,” Speranza said in reference to social distancing in a statement released on Wednesday, as the last remaining restrictions on personal freedoms were lifted.

“The virus is still very dangerous,” Speranza warned.

Italy reported 71 new COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s toll to 33,601, out of total infection cases of 233,836, according to fresh figures on Wednesday.

Nationwide, the number of active infections dropped by 596 to 39,297 cases, according to the Civil Protection Department.

Of those who tested positive for the new coronavirus, 353 are in intensive care, 55 fewer compared to Tuesday, and 5,742 are hospitalized with symptoms, a decrease of 174 patients compared to Tuesday.

The remaining 33,202 people, or about 84 percent of those who tested positive, are isolated at home with no symptoms or only mild symptoms.

Recoveries rose by 846 compared to Tuesday, bringing the nationwide total to 160,938.

The overall number of COVID-19 active infections, fatalities and recoveries has risen to 233,836 cases over the past 24 hours, an increase of 321 cases from 233,515 recorded on Tuesday.

The overall fatalities include 167 doctors, according to the National Federation of Orders of Surgeons and Dentists (FNOMCeO), which is keeping a running tally of MDs who died fighting the virus.

As the pandemic slowed down visibly in recent weeks, Italy further eased the 10-week lockdown on May 18. Shops, restaurants, bars, barbershops, beauty salons, museums, and beachfront operators were all allowed to reopen, provided that they respect rules for social distancing and disinfect facilities.

Also on Wednesday, the Uffizi Galleries in Florence, home to masterpieces by Botticelli, Caravaggio, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and many more exquisite Renaissance artists, reopened its doors to visitors.

The museum occupying the first and second floors of a palace built in the late 1500s and designed by Giorgio Vasari is a magnet for tourists worldwide.  

 

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Italy’s active coronavirus infections fall to late March level as it prepares to further reopen

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Italy’s active infections of coronavirus fell below 40,000 for the first time since March 20 on Tuesday, just a day before the lifting of movement restrictions between Italian regions, figures of the Civil Protection Department showed.

The number of people currently being infected by the coronavirus fell on Tuesday to 39,893, down from 41,367 recorded a day earlier. The last time the figure was so low was on March 20, when the country had 37,860 active infections. The figure peaked at 108,257 on April 19 before steadily declining to the current level.

The news comes a day before the lifting of movement restrictions between Italian regions. This step, the latest in Italy’s gradual easing of coronavirus lockdown rules put into place on March 10, has been controversial in some parts of the country. Some leaders in southern Italy where infection rates have been mild fear infection could jump if a large number of people from the hard-hit northern parts of the country travel south.

Also starting on Wednesday, Italy will open its borders without restriction to travelers from the other 25 Schengen countries, including the countries with high infection rates.

Downward trend was also observed among other data on Tuesday. Over the last 24 hours, 55 people died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, down from 60 a day earlier. And it’s the second lowest one-day death toll since March 7 when 36 deaths were recorded. The outlier came on May 24, when only 50 deaths occurred, but that was without any data from Lombardy, the hardest-hit Italian region accounting for nearly half of Italy’s 33,530 COVID-19 deaths.

The number of COVID-19 patients in intensive care units also fell by 16 to 408, while those in hospitals with symptoms dropped by 183 to 5,916. The number of people self-isolated at home with no symptoms or only mild symptoms also fell by 1,275 to 33,569.

Within the past 24-hour period, 1,737 people were declared as recovered from COVID-19, more than doubled the 848 recoveries in the previous 24 hours.

Meanwhile, 318 new confirmed cases were recorded, more than the 178 new cases released on Monday. Monday‘s number of new cases was the lowest since late February.

The overall number of COVID-19 active infections, fatalities and recoveries had risen to 233,515 over the past 24 hours, from 233,197 recorded on Monday.

The plan to allow free travel between regions and the arrival of foreign travelers starting Wednesday is part of a broader plan to help salvage part of the tourist season for the country.

According to the data firm Statistica, tourism was, directly or indirectly, accounted for 13.3 percent of Italy’s gross domestic product last year, a number that had been predicted before the hit of the pandemic to steadily rise to nearly 15 percent within a decade.

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Roundup: Italy marks Republic Day with tribute to coronavirus victims

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Italy on Tuesday marked its annual Republic Day with a tribute to the almost 33,500 Italians who lost their lives to the novel coronavirus.

The national holiday is the anniversary of June 2, 1946, when a majority of Italians voted in favor of being a republic instead of a monarchy in a national referendum that was also the first time women were allowed to vote.

On Tuesday morning, Italian President Sergio Mattarella placed a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, a monument in the central Piazza Venezia, in the presence of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte and other top officials.

Then the Air Force acrobatics team — the Frecce Tricolori (Italian for “three-colored arrows”) — flew in formation over the capital, leaving smoke trails in the colors of the Italian flag: green, white, and red.

This year, beginning on May 25, the Frecce Tricolori have flown over the capitals of Italy’s 20 regions in what the Air Force called “a symbolic hugging of the entire nation with the three-colored smoke in a sign of unity, solidarity and recovery.”

“One of the crucial principles of acrobatic flight is that of flying together while maintaining the right distance,” the Air Force said in a statement. “This principle can become a metaphor for … our daily lives now: distant, but united.”

The Frecce Tricolori also flew over the town of Codogno in the northern Lombardy region, where the COVID-19 pandemic first broke out on Feb. 21 and where the first red zone was set up.

Instead of presiding over the traditional military parade in Rome, which was canceled this year, Mattarella on Tuesday traveled to Codogno to “pay tribute to all the victims and to bear witness to the courage of all Italians” in the battle against the new coronavirus.

He met with local and regional officials and visited the local cemetery, where he laid a wreath for those who lost their lives to the virus.

Back in Rome, Mattarella attended a concert in honor of the victims of the novel coronavirus at the Lazzaro Spallanzani Hospital, which houses the National Institute for Infectious Disease (INMI) and which is on the frontlines in battling the virus.

In a televised speech to the nation on Monday evening, Mattarella said that “many of us hold the heartbreaking memory of those who passed away due to the coronavirus: relatives, friends, colleagues.”

The president said the people of Italy are fighting “an invisible enemy” which has “disrupted our lives … and placed the productive structure of our country under enormous strain.”

More challenges lie ahead in the “reconstruction” of the country in the wake of the pandemic, Mattarella said, adding “we are not alone.”

“Europe shows it has recovered the authentic spirit of its integration,” Mattarella noted.

“Solidarity between the countries of the (European) Union is not one option out of many, but the only way to face successfully the most serious crisis our generations have experienced,” he said.

“No country will have an acceptable future without the European Union — not even the strongest, not even the one least stricken by the virus,” the president stressed.

(XINHUA)

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Italy’s death toll from coronavirus climbs to 33,530

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Italy reported 55 new COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the country’s toll to 33,530, out of total infection cases of 233,515, according to fresh figures on Tuesday.

Nationwide, the number of active infections dropped by 1,474 to 39,893 cases, according to the Civil Protection Department.

Of those who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, 408 are in intensive care, 16 fewer compared to Monday, and 5,916 are hospitalized with symptoms, a decrease of 183 patients compared to Monday.

The rest 33,569 people, or 84 percent of those who tested positive, are quarantined at home with no symptoms or only mild symptoms.

Recoveries rose by 1,737 compared to Monday, bringing the nationwide total to 160,092.

The overall number of COVID-19 active infections, fatalities and recoveries has risen to 233,515 cases over the past 24 hours, an increase of 318 cases from 233,197 recorded on Monday.

As the pandemic visibly slowed down in recent weeks, Italy on May 18 further eased the 10-week lockdown. Shops, restaurants, bars, barbershops, beauty salons, museums, and beachfront operators were all allowed to reopen, provided that they respect rules for social distancing and disinfect facilities.

(XINHUA)

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News Analysis: Most expect Italy’s economy to rebound later this year, but few agree on how much

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Consensus estimates are that in the second half of this year Italy’s economy will gain back some of the losses it experienced during the national coronavirus lockdown. But there is little consensus on how much.

Italy’s National Statistics Institute, best known as ISTAT, revised its estimates for the first quarter of this year, saying the economy contracted by 5.3 percent compared to the last quarter of 2019, weaker than earlier estimates of a 4.7-percent contraction. During the quarter, imports decreased by 6.2 percent and export by 8.0 percent. Agriculture was 1.9-percent lower and industrial output was down by 8.4 percent.

Given that Italy‘s lockdown entered into force in early March — near the end of the first quarter — all estimates are that the contraction will be even larger when second-quarter economic data is released next month.

But after that? Opinions vary.

Ignazio Visco, the governor of the Central Reserve Bank of Italy, predicted Italy‘s economy would shrink between 9 and 13 percent for the year as a whole. Though the 4-percentage-point range is large — usually, near-term economic prognostications only vary by a few tenths of a percent — the more optimistic side of the range would almost certainly require positive growth over the second half of the year.

Most economists, investment banks, and multilateral groups fall into a similar range as the one in the latest Central Reserve Bank, from negative 9 to negative 15-percent growth for 2020 compared to 2019.

“I am expecting economic weakness in Italy to last well into next year and perhaps into 2022,” Javier Noriega, an economist with investment bankers Hildebrandt and Ferrar, told Xinhua. “The tourism sector won’t be back on its feet this year, and exports will depend on the economic recovery in other countries. The recovery will be soft, but we have no way to accurately estimate how soft.”

Alessandro Polli, a professor of economic statistics at Rome’s La Sapienza University, agreed about the insufficient data to accurately model the medium-term impact and severity of the economic slowdown. But he was more optimistic about where things could be heading.

“Any economic growth estimates we see now are the equivalent of shooting in the dark,” Polli said in an interview. “We are just guessing; we just don’t have the data on unemployment levels, exports, industrial production, tourist arrivals. It’s not really in our own hands, because internal consumption in Italy is too weak to sustain the economy. We’re too dependent on what happens elsewhere.”

But Polli‘s personal prediction is more optimistic than those of many other economists.

“My impression is that this lockdown will look like an economic parenthesis,” he said. “Does that parenthesis last three months? Six months? A year? We have to wait to know that. But I think there is pent-up demand. The economy was not powerful before the arrival of the coronavirus but I think we will get back to semi-normal levels fairly quickly.”

(XINHUA)

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Roundup: Italy records lowest new COVID-19 cases since Feb. 27

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Italy recorded 178 fresh cases of infection from the novel coronavirus in the past 24 hours, the lowest such figure since Feb. 27, the Civil Protection Department said on Monday.

The overall number of COVID-19 infections, fatalities and recoveries rose to 233,197 cases over the past 24 hours, from 233,019 cases on Sunday.

The pandemic began in Italy on Feb. 21 in the northern, densely populated and highly industrialized Lombardy region, whose capital is Milan.

Total active infections stood at 41,367, down from 42,075 on Sunday, while another 848 COVID-19 patients recovered, bringing the total recoveries to 158,355.

Another 60 patients died, taking the toll to 33,475.

The overall fatalities include 166 doctors, according to the National Federation of Orders of Surgeons and Dentists (FNOMCeO), which is keeping a running tally of doctors who died in fighting the virus.

Of those who tested positive for the novel coronavirus, 424 are in intensive care, 11 fewer compared to Sunday; and 6,099 are hospitalized with symptoms, down by 288 patients over the past 24 hours, the Civil Protection Department said.

The rest 34,844 people, or 84 percent of those who tested positive — are quarantined at home because they are asymptomatic or have very light symptoms.

“The new coronavirus is circulating less… This is due to both the lockdown and existing measures such as the use of face masks and social distancing,” Dr. Luca Richeldi, who heads the Pulmonology Department at Rome’s Policlinico Gemelli Hospital and who sits on the Technical and Scientific Committee advising the government on how to fight the pandemic, told reporters on Monday.

Italy declared a six-month national state of emergency due to the coronavirus pandemic on Jan. 31, and the government followed this up with a nationwide lockdown that went into effect on March 10.

Exactly a month later, on April 10, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte announced the lockdown would continue until May 3, to be followed by a so-called Phase Two involving “the gradual resumption of social, economic and productive activities.”

INDUSTRY “SUFFOCATED” BY LACK OF DEMAND

Phase Two, however, is off to a slow and painful start for industrialists, according to a report on Monday by the General Confederation of Italian Industry (Confindustria).

The industrial sector “is still suffocated by extremely weak domestic and foreign demand,” the report said.

Italy’s industrial production plunged by 44.3 percent in April and by 33.8 percent in May compared to the same period last year. Also on a yearly basis, the volume of industrial orders dropped by 29.6 percent in April and by 51.6 percent in May, the Confindustria report stated.

On the home front, “millions of workers have lost their purchasing power” while household consumption fell as people prefer to save their money amidst uncertainty as to how long the health emergency will last.

On the international front, “foreign demand is still compromised by the different timing of the introduction of COVID-19 containment measures in other countries,” the report said.

“Many entrepreneurs are suffering from lack of cash flow and are being forced to play by ear in the midst of a scenario of extreme uncertainty with regards to the Italian and the international economy,” Confindustria wrote.

The report warned that “we risk the explosion of an outright social emergency within a few months” unless the government steps in to help the productive system.

Confindustria represents more than 150,000 manufacturing and service companies of all sizes in Italy, employing over 5.4 million people in the country.

45 MLN AIR PASSENGERS “LOST IN LOCKDOWN

One of the most hard-hit sectors is air transport. Due to the lockdown, Italy’s airports lost 45 million passengers in March, April and May compared to the same period last year, and over 10,000 airport staff have had to claim unemployment benefits, the Association of Italian Airports (Assaeroporti) said in a statement on Monday.

The association “asks the government to ensure a competitive air transportation market” through targeted policies, because “air transport is a critical sector for Italy’s socio-economic recovery.”

Assaeroporti pointed out that 40 percent of foreign tourists reach Italy by air, and that together, the air transport and tourism sectors generate “17 percent of national gross domestic product (GDP).”

Assaeroporti represents 32 companies that manage 42 airports, which move 193.1 million passengers a year.

(XINHUA)

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