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Students returning to schools in Italy as COVID-19 cases keep rising

Xinhua | Updated: 2020-09-04 09:36
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ROME - Around 8 million students are returning to schools in Italy for the first time since March, as the country reported for the ninth time in 13 days over 1,000 new COVID-19 cases on Thursday.

Thursday was the first day that students began returning to school in Italy, mostly in private schools across the country. Most public school students will return either Sept 7 or Sept 14.

The return to school risks pushing infection rates even higher, according to Andrea Crisanti, a virologist from the University of Padua. In media interviews this week, Crisanti predicted an infection rate of 2 to 3 percent among students, potentially resulting in as many as 240,000 new infections or nearly as many infections as having been recorded nationally since February.

Italy recorded 1,397 new cases of the coronavirus infection on Thursday. It was the ninth time since Aug. 22 that at least 1,000 new cases were recorded. Before that date, the grim 1,000-case milestone had not been surpassed in a single day since May 12. The new cases brought the total number of coronavirus infections in the country to 272,912 since the first infections in February.

From mid-March to mid-April, Italy regularly recorded more than 4,000 new cases a day, peaking with 6,554 new infections on a single day.

The number of patients in intensive care units has been climbing as well, reaching 120 by Thursday, an increase of 11 from the previous day.

Other indicators remained largely under control. Ten deaths were reported across the country on Thursday, an increase from six a day earlier. But the country has not seen more than 15 deaths in a single day since July 16. A total of 289 people were declared recovered from COVID-19 on Thursday, in line with recent days, bringing that total to 208,490.

The outbreak was cast in a new light this week after former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi tested positive for the coronavirus. News that Berlusconi was infected broke Wednesday and was front-page news across Italy.

A study from the health unit for Reggio-Emilia in central Italy showed that those infected by the coronavirus might still be able to infect others for more than twice as long as previously believed.

If further research holds up that data, it could be significant, since quarantine periods for infected individuals is based on the period when they could potentially remain positive. If the quarantine is not long enough, infected individuals could still spread the virus even if they respect strict quarantine rules.

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