MILAN (Reuters) – Italy reported 529 coronavirus-related deaths on Tuesday against 417 the day before, the health ministry said, as a new study showed the more contagious variant first discovered in Britain now accounts for nine out of 10 new Italian cases.
The daily tally of new infections in Italy, the first Western country to be hit by the virus, rose to 16,017 on Tuesday from 12,916 on Monday.
Some 301,451 tests for COVID-19 were carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 156,692, the health ministry said.
Italy has imposed strict curbs to try to rein in a recent rise in infections and deaths, with restaurants and bars limited to take-away services and most shops closed.
It has registered 108,879 fatalities linked to COVID-19 since its outbreak emerged in February last year, the second-highest toll in Europe after Britain and the seventh-highest in the world. The country has reported 3.56 million cases to date.
Italy’s top health institute, the ISS, said on Tuesday that the variant first detected in southern England last autumn now accounted for 87% of new cases in Italy, accelerating from a prevalence of 54% in the previous study in February.
This variant of the virus is 37% more contagious than the original form which had predominated from the start of Italy’s outbreak until early this year, the ISS said.
Another variant, currently responsible for a surge in contagion and mortality in Brazil, accounts for 4% of new infections in Italy, the ISS said, down marginally from 4.3% last month.
Patients in hospital with COVID-19 – not including those in intensive care – stood at 29,231 on Tuesday, increasing from 29,163 a day earlier, the health ministry said.
There were 269 new admissions to intensive care units, up from 192 on Monday. The total number of intensive care patients edged down to 3,716 from a previous 3,721.
(Reporting by Giulia Segreti and Gavin Jones; editing by Jonathan Oatis)