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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Italy's coronavirus death toll passes 10,000. Many are asking why the fatality rate is so high

Italy's coronavirus death toll passes 10,000. Many are asking why the fatality rate is so high

Italy's death toll is now the highest in the world at 10,023. Fatalities passed the grim milestone on Saturday, with an increase of 889 since the last figures were released on Friday, according to Italy's Civil Protection Agency.

With 92,472 confirmed cases, Italy appears to have the highest death rate on the planet. Compare it to China, the epicenter of the pandemic, which has a roughly similar number of confirmed cases at 81,997, but under a third as many deaths, at 3,299, according to Johns Hopkins University and Medicine.

Indeed Italy now has the second-highest number of confirmed cases in the world after the United States, which stands at 105,470. But the US has a fraction of the deaths, at just over 1,700.

As Italy enters its sixth week of restrictions, many are asking: why does its death rate seem so much higher than other countries?

Experts say it's down to a combination of factors, like the country's large elderly population which is more susceptible to the virus, and the method of testing that's not giving the full picture about infections.

Distorted numbers
Italy's number of confirmed cases is "not representative of the entire infected population," said Dr. Massimo Galli, head of the infectious disease unit at Sacco Hospital in Milan. The real figure was "much much more."

Only the most severe cases are being tested, added Galli, and not the entire population -- which in turn, skews the death rate.

In the northern Lombardy region, which has the majority of cases, about 5,000 swabs are being carried out daily, said Galli. He added this was "much lower than needed, with "thousands of people waiting for diagnosis at their home."

A major obstacle for health workers carrying out tests, was limited protective gear available, he said.

In a stark warning to other countries, Galli said: "We have a national healthcare system that works very well, especially in Lombardy - but even our system has been hit by this.

"Miracles have been done in multiplying the numbers of beds in hospitals," said the health expert. But medicine "has been lacking - and this is a big problem that will be felt by other countries.”





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