ROME – Hospitalizations due to the coronavirus are on the rise again in Italy, according to official data published on Monday. This could signal a potential increase in cases over the coming winter.
The Gimbe Foundation, a health monitoring entity, said the number of patients in intensive care units increased by almost 22% in the week ending November 17. The increase in admissions to intensive care units has been faster than that of overall hospital admissions related to the coronavirus, which increased by almost 10% during the same period.
The total number of coronavirus infections also increased, with around 208,000 reported in the same period, compared to 181,000 the previous week. This represents a peak of 15%. Nevertheless, weekly deaths decreased by 2.9%.
“With the circulation of the virus on the rise, we expect the government to soon publish an action plan for the winter,” said Nino Cartabellotta, president of the Gimbe Foundation.
Cartabellotta and other health officials have urged caution as the weather gets colder and more activity takes place indoors, creating more favorable conditions for the virus to spread.
However, Health Minister Orazio Schillaci said last week that the coronavirus had entered an “endemic phase” in Italy, meaning that while it won’t go away, it will remain under control. Schillaci said the coronavirus should be approached the same way as the flu, noting that many people test positive while remaining asymptomatic. Nonetheless, Schillaci urged those most vulnerable to infection to wear masks.
Italy has distributed fourth doses of the vaccine, although data shows the rate of distribution is down from previous rounds of the immunization program.
As of Monday, the country had distributed 142.5 million doses. About 88.6% of the country’s residents over the age of 12, or 42.3 million people, had received the full course of vaccination plus at least one booster, or had recovered from coronavirus infection during of the previous four months.
Meanwhile, 4.9 million people had received a second booster injection.
According to the Gimbe Foundation, the number of patients in the intensive care unit during the week ending November 17 rose to 247, from 203 the previous week, an increase of 21.7%. The total number of hospitalizations rose 9.8% from the previous week, to 6,981.
The Gimbe Foundation bases its calculations on official data provided by the Italian Ministry of Health, which last week stopped publicly releasing daily data on the pandemic. This is due to policies introduced by the new Italian government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, which took office a month ago.
As of November 17, the date of the last daily report, the country had recorded 24.0 million individual cases since February 2020, and more than 180,000 deaths.