Italy on Tuesday received more reassuring evidence that its coronavirus infection rate was slowing thanks to a painful lockdown that other nations are starting to apply at great economic cost.
Health officials across the ravaged Mediterranean country are poring over every new piece of data to see whether two weeks of bans and closures have made a dent in the crisis.
The harshest restrictions are theoretically due to expire on Wednesday evening — although the government is all but certain to extend them in some form for weeks or even months.
Italy’s 743 new deaths broke two days of successive declines that had taken the number down to 601 on Monday.
It set a world record of 793 fatalities on Saturday.
But officially registered new infections rose just eight percent — the same as Monday and the lowest level since Italy registered its first death on February 21.
It had been running at as high as 50 percent at the start of March.
“The measures we took two weeks ago are starting to have an effect,” civil protection service chief Angelo Borrelli told the daily La Repubblica before Tuesday’s toll came out.
He said more data over the next few days will help show “if the growth curve is really flattening.”
Few scientists expect Italy’s numbers — if they really are dropping — to follow a steady downward line.
The slowing contagion rate is at least offering a ray of hope in the midst of a global health emergency that is only deepening in other parts of Europe and the United States.
Scientists believe that countries such as Spain and France are following in Italy’s footsteps with a lag of a few weeks.
The numbers from the US are also similar to the track of those of Italy about 20 days ago.
Most other European nations and some US states have followed Italy’s example and imposed their own containment and social distancing measures designed to stop the spread.
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