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Health

Italy sees 845 new COVID-19 cases, highest since end of lockdown in May

FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker takes a swab sample from a man at a coronavirus disease (COVID-19) test centre at Rome's San Giovanni hospital in Rome, Italy, August 18, 2020. REUTERS/Remo Casilli

ROME (Reuters) - Italy reported 845 new coronavirus infections in the past 24 hours, the health ministry said on Thursday, marking the highest daily increase since May, when the government eased its rigid lockdown measures.

Italy, one of Europe’s worst-hit countries, managed to contain the outbreak after a peak in deaths and cases between March and April. However, it has seen a steady increase in infections over the last month, with experts blaming gatherings of people associated with holidays and nightlife.

Last time the country recorded a higher figure was May 16, with 875 cases, two days before restaurants, bars and shops were allowed to reopen after a 10-week lockdown.

Despite the rise in infections, daily death tallies remain low and are often in single figures. Thursday saw six fatalities compared to seven on Wednesday, health ministry data showed.

The numbers of new infections remain considerably lower than those recently registered in other large European countries, with Spain and France both close to 4,000 new cases a day.

Italian cases are still mainly concentrated in the northern regions at the epicentre of the outbreak discovered in late February, with Lombardy and Veneto both above 150 on Thursday.

Lazio, around Rome, registered 115 cases of which 73% were due to people returning from other Italian regions or from abroad, the regional government said.

Italy has taken countermeasures to try to stem the recent uptrend, 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.

Reporting by Angelo Amante, editing by Gavin Jones and Giles Elgood

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