COVID-19 has already spreading globally (Photo Credit: IANS)
Italy's death toll passed 1,000 on Thursday, with 189 new fatalities taking its toll in just over two weeks to 1,016, second behind China, official data showed. The number of deaths was just below Italy's single-day record of 196 reported on Wednesday.
The number of daily infections rose to 2,651 from 2,313 on Wednesday, reaching 15,113 overall.
Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte says he is convinced that the swingeing measures taken by his government will succeed in containing Europe's worst novel coronavirus outbreak.
"Tomorrow, we will not only be admired, we will be taken as a positive example of a country... that managed to beat this pandemic," Conte told fellow Italians in a televised statement on Wednesday evening.
But does Conte have a reason to be optimistic? AFP spoke to some doctors to find out.
"Viruses cause epidemics but it is people that harbour them and who can therefore stop them," says virologist Elisabetta Groppelli of London's St George's medical school.
"The isolation measures had a big effect in Wuhan (scene of China's most serious outbreak), as well as in previous epidemics like Ebola and the Spanish flu in 1918," says Groppelli.
"The shutdown in Italy could therefore succeed in containing and slowing the number of new cases, which could reduce the pressure on hospitals," she says.
Conte said on Wednesday that the effects of the crackdown should be visible "within a few weeks". But experts warn the broader context has changed since the initial outbreak in China.
"Unlike the situation in Wuhan where there was the possibility that the global epidemic could be prevented, COVID-19 is already spreading globally," says Paul Hunter, professor in medicine at the UK's University of East Anglia (UEA).
"So when the restrictions in Italy are eased there may still be a large number of cases in nearby countries that could lead (the virus) spreading back into Italy," he says.
The region around Milan in northern Italy has been the worst hit by the virus but has one of the world's best health systems.