Italy’s coronavirus cases pass 200,000 since start of outbreak

Italy saw the number of total coronavirus cases surpass the 200,000 mark on Tuesday, as Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte came under fire from coalition allies for charting a cautious easing of a national lockdown.

Civil protection authorities reported 2,091 new cases for the 24-hour period compared with 1,739 a day earlier. Confirmed cases now total 201,505 in Italy, the original European epicenter of the outbreak. The number of recovered patients rose by 2,317 to 68,941.

Ex-premier Matteo Renzi, who heads the coalition’s small Italy Alive party, members of the center-left Democratic Party and regional leaders criticized Conte’s plan for a limited easing on May 4 from a lockdown that’s shuttered all non-essential businesses as too slow and unclear. The government estimates that gross domestic product will fall by 8 percent this year. Bloomberg Economics forecasts the economy will shrink by 13 percent.

Renzi told newspaper La Repubblica earlier Tuesday he would consider whether to continue backing the government once Italians get “out of their homes.” The ex-premier has repeatedly blown hot and cold on the ruling coalition.

Conte explained his caution by citing warnings from medical advisers on the reproduction factor — known by epidemiologists as R-naught, which measures the spread of the disease. Italy’s R0 has fallen to below 1, meaning that each person with the virus infects an average of less than one other person.

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“If it went back to 2 it would mean in a very short time 200,000 people infected, then 400,000, then 800,000, then 1.6 million and so on,” Conte told La Stampa newspaper. “The curve would become exponential. With the current mortality rate, it would be unforgivable.”

Italy registered 382 deaths linked to the virus on Tuesday, compared with 333 the day before and the highest in three days. That brings the total number of fatalities to 27,359.

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