The number of people dying from coronavirus in Italy dropped again yesterday, fuelling hopes the country may have reached the peak of its devastating outbreak.
The government announced a death toll of 602, a fall from the 651 who died on Sunday and the record 793 who died on Saturday. The new figure was the smallest one-day increase in the overall death toll since Thursday, suggesting mortality rates might be gradually tapering off.
The total number of deaths is now 6,078 and more than 63,000 have been infected, making Italy by far the worst afflicted country in the world.
But the decline in the daily tally will provide a glimmer of hope that the unprecedented national lockdown imposed two weeks ago is at last having an effect, although scientists and politicians said it was still too early to say for sure.
Italy's prime minister said the pandemic was challenging the entire "social and economic endurance" of the nation and no one knows when it will end.
"It's too early to say," Giuseppe Conte said.
"We have not yet reached the most acute phase of the contagion and the numbers are increasing still. In the next few days we are waiting to see what will be the effect of the measures we took."
The worst affected part of Italy is the north, in particular the region of Lombardy, which includes Milan.
Attilio Fontana, the governor of the region, said he could hardly recall what his life was like before Lombardy was hit by what he called "this bastard virus".
The mayor of one of the worst-hit towns in the region, Bergamo, revealed that despite it being at the centre of the virus he had brought his two daughters back from the UK because he feared the British government was hugely underestimating the threat.
Giorgio Gori accused Boris Johnson's administration of failing to heed the warning provided by Italy's traumatic experience and high death toll.
One of his daughters was studying at a college in Somerset, while the other was doing a Masters in Kent.
"When I saw what the English government was thinking about this problem, I decided to bring them back because I think that even if we are at the centre of the epidemic, probably they are more secure here than in England, because I don't understand why the government didn't decide in time to protect their citizens."
Meanwhile, a 95-year-old grandmother became the oldest person in Italy to recover from the coronavirus.
Alma Clara Corsini was admitted to a hospital near Modena in the north of Italy on March 5 and despite her advanced age managed to fight off Covid-19 without the help of anti-viral medication.
"I'm fine, I'm absolutely fine," she told local media, praising the doctors and nurses who helped her recover.
One newspaper said Ms Corsini had been the "pride of staff" during her treatment at a hospital in Pavullo. Ms Corsini returned to the nursing home in which she lives in the town of Fanano, near Modena.
In France, scientific experts are today due to advise the government on how long they think the country should extend a 14-day lockdown that started a week ago.
Top health officials have hinted it could last six weeks at least.
The announcement comes as the country's state council rejected calls for "total confinement" as hundreds of doctors called for absolute lockdown in a petition published yesterday.
Currently, the French are allowed to go out with a written justification for vital work or medical reasons, to buy food or to exercise.
While the council stopped short of forcing people to stay in at all costs, it said that conditions to leave should be tightened as France is struggling to get a grip on the epidemic, particularly in the east of the country. (© Daily Telegraph, London)