Italy Could Be Free of New COVID-19 Cases by May 16, 10 Weeks After Country Went Into Lockdown

Italy may be virtually free of new COVID-19 cases by the middle of May, statistical research has indicated

Experts from the Einaudi Institute for Economics and Finance (EIEF) carried out calculations using data from the Civil Protection Department on the rate of infections, concluding that the disease could be practically eliminated in the country within the period May 5 to May 16.

"We are going in the right direction and we must not change our strategy in the least. The return to normality will be a gradual process... the goal is to contain the situation now, and prevent further epidemic outbreaks, such as those seen in the North, and restore as much as possible a normal lifestyle," Higher Health Council president Franco Locatelli told reporters at a press conference.

By analyzing the Civil Protection data, the EIEF team also came up with estimates for when each region of Italy may be free of new COVID-19 cases. The estimates—based on data collected up to March 29—are as follows:

  • Trentino-Alto Adige (April 6)
  • Liguria (April 7)
  • Umbria (April 7)
  • Basilicata (April 7)
  • Valle d'Aosta (April 8)
  • Puglia (April 9)
  • Friuli Venezia Giulia (April 10)
  • Abruzzo (April 11)
  • Veneto (April 14)
  • Sicily (April 14)
  • Piedmont (April 15)
  • Lazio (April 16)
  • Calabria (April 17)
  • Campania (April 20)
  • Lombardy (April 22)
  • Emilia Romagna (April 28)
  • Tuscany (May 5)

Italy has the second-highest number of confirmed COVID-19 cases after the U.S. with just over 100,000 infections, and the highest number of deaths from the disease at over 11,000.

However, the number of new cases reported on March 30 was 4,050—the smallest increase in nearly two weeks and a potential indication that strict social distancing measures are working. Furthermore, the country reported the highest daily rise in patients recovering from COVID-19 at 1,590.

Mike Ryan, a top emergencies expert at the World Health Organization, said that these kinds of measure—a full lockdown was implemented on March 9 in the country—should lead to a stabilization in new infections, although vigilant follow-up will be required.

"What we are likely to see, if you imagine the lockdown and stringent measures in Italy are now in place 2-3 weeks... we should start to see stabilization because the cases we see today really reflect exposures two weeks ago," Ryan told reporters at a press conference. "So we do hope that Italy and Spain are nearly there on that... And going down [on case numbers] isn't just about a lockdown and let go."

Piazza dell'Esquilino, Italy, Rome
A morning aerial photo taken on March 30, 2020 shows a deserted Piazza dell'Esquilino in front of the Santa Maria Maggiore basilica in Rome during the country's lockdown aimed at curbing the spread of the COVID-19 infection. ELIO CASTORIA/AFP via Getty Images

There appear to be signs of hope in Lombardy, the worst affected region of Italy, where lockdown measures seem to be having an impact. The number of confirmed cases suffering from the illness in the region dropped for the first from 25,392 on Sunday to 25,006 on Monday.

"In Lombardy—and especially in the worst-hit areas of Lodi and Bergamo—the number of infectious respiratory events for which regional emergency vehicles have been called is markedly reduced," Locatelli said at the press conference. "Interventions—deployment of emergency vehicles—on the territory have halved compared to March 14-15."

According to Italy's Deputy Health Minister Pierpaolo Sileri, the country could witness "a drop in the number of people infected within seven to 10 days," while Silvio Brusaferro from the country's Istituto Superiore di Sanità told La Repubblica that "we are witnessing a flattening of the curve."

"There are no signs of a descent yet, but things are improving," he said.

Nevertheless, the country extended its lockdown measures on Monday until at least mid-April, with Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte noting that any easing of restrictions would be done gradually to try and prevent infections from rising again.

World Health Organization advice for avoiding spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19)Hygiene advice

  • Clean hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Wash hands after coughing or sneezing; when caring for the sick; before, during and after food preparation; before eating; after using the toilet; when hands are visibly dirty; and after handling animals or waste.
  • Maintain at least 1 meter (3 feet) distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
  • Avoid touching your hands, nose and mouth. Do not spit in public.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or bent elbow when coughing or sneezing. Discard the tissue immediately and clean your hands.

Medical advice

  • Avoid close contact with others if you have any symptoms.
  • Stay at home if you feel unwell, even with mild symptoms such as headache and runny nose, to avoid potential spread of the disease to medical facilities and other people.
  • If you develop serious symptoms (fever, cough, difficulty breathing) seek medical care early and contact local health authorities in advance.
  • Note any recent contact with others and travel details to provide to authorities who can trace and prevent spread of the disease.
  • Stay up to date on COVID-19 developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.

Mask and glove usage

  • Healthy individuals only need to wear a mask if taking care of a sick person.
  • Wear a mask if you are coughing or sneezing.
  • Masks are effective when used in combination with frequent hand cleaning.
  • Do not touch the mask while wearing it. Clean hands if you touch the mask.
  • Learn how to properly put on, remove and dispose of masks. Clean hands after disposing of the mask.
  • Do not reuse single-use masks.
  • Regularly washing bare hands is more effective against catching COVID-19 than wearing rubber gloves.
  • The COVID-19 virus can still be picked up on rubber gloves and transmitted by touching your face.