Health and Science

Coronavirus deaths slow in Italy, while trade unions vow to strike

Key Points
  • Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Italy had not yet reached the "most acute phase" of the infection.
  • "It is early to say" when this crisis will be over, Conte told the newspaper La Stampa on Monday.
A priest wearing a face mask checks a book of funeral rites as he gives the last blessing to a deceased person, by a coffin during a funeral ceremony outside the cemetery of Bolgare, Lombardy, on March 23, 2020 during the COVID-19 new coronavirus pandemic.

Italians woke up Tuesday with a glimmer of hope as the coronavirus death toll in the country appeared to have slowed down.

The number of deaths rose by 601 on Monday, the smallest increase in four days, according to data from the Italian authorities. The number of new confirmed cases also slowed Monday. These figures have raised expectations that the worse could be over for the country with the highest number of deaths from the virus worldwide. 

However, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said Italy had not yet reached the "most acute phase" of the infection.

"It is early to say" when this crisis will be over, Conte told the newspaper La Stampa on Monday.

Italy has been in national lockdown since early March and it is scheduled to last until April 3. There have been 63,927 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Italy and 6,077 deaths, but 7,432 people have recovered from the illness.

Italian authorities urge stricter measures to flatten the coronavirus curve

Conte stepped up the lockdown measures over the weekend, ordering the closure of all industrial production and almost all private and public offices.

However, metalworkers and bank unions have vowed to strike on Wednesday. They are demanding more stringent measures for the factories that are still open and for bank employees, who they say do not have enough masks, gloves or disinfectant. 

"As a result of the amateurish management of the recent decision to impose a shutdown of all non-essential economic activities, the government has managed to alienate both trade unions and business groups," Wolfango Piccoli, co-president of the research firm Teneo, said in an email Monday.

He added that the current coronavirus crisis was making the political atmosphere "increasingly toxic."

Spain death toll rises 

Meanwhile, Spain reported 462 deaths in just 24 hours on Monday, according to government data. The increase in the death toll is the sharpest seen so far during the outbreak in the country.

BILBAO, SPAIN - MARCH 23: A military team at the Abando Indalecio Prieto Renfe station in Bilbao during disinfection tasks due to the coronavirus crisis on March 23, 2020 in Bilbao, Spain.
Europa Press News

Fernando Simon, from the Spanish health ministry, said Monday that when reaching the peak of infections, the authorities needed to double their efforts to ensure they do not take any steps backward.

As of Tuesday morning, Spain had 35,136 confirmed cases of coronavirus.

France's State Support

In France, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire said Tuesday that he had drawn up a list of companies that might need funds from the government.

France is also in national lockdown with 20,128 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 862 deaths.

Speaking to a French radio station Tuesday, Le Maire said nationalization is an option of "last resort." Various companies in France and across Europe have pulled their initial guidance to investors, arguing that it is too early to forecast the economic impact of the virus on their businesses.

France is preparing legislation to extend the current state of lockdown, which was set to last until March 31.

Euro zone finance ministers will hold a conference call Tuesday evening to discuss new ways to mitigate the economic impact from the virus.

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