Italy virus fight plan wrong: scientist

In the past three days, new infections in Italy have continued at between 5000 and 6000 per day.
In the past three days, new infections in Italy have continued at between 5000 and 6000 per day.

Italy's measures to halt coronavirus contagion do not seem to be working and it should change its strategy by setting up centres to separate people with suspected symptoms from their families, a prominent Italian scientist says.

Italy, which has suffered the world's highest death toll from coronavirus, has been in nationwide lockdown for about three weeks, but in the past three days new infections have continued at between 5000 and 6000 per day.

The highest daily death toll since the outbreak began on February 21 was registered on Friday, with 919 fatalities, and the tally was only slightly lower in the following two days.

Andrea Crisanti, professor of microbiology at Padua University, said in an interview with Radio Capital that many of these new cases were probably people who were being infected by fellow family members at home.

Crisanti said instead of telling people with mild symptoms to self-isolate at home, the authorities should have set up centres to separate them from their families, as was done in China where the epidemic originated in December.

"Is someone posing the problem of why, despite all these restrictive measures, we are still seeing infections? Are they asking if all these people who are sick at home are infecting other members of their family?" he said.

"In our opinion, the infections are happening at home."

Crisanti helped co-ordinate the coronavirus response in Italy's affluent northeastern region of Veneto, where blanket testing was introduced at the start of Italy's outbreak in the second half of February.

That helped identify cases and limit contagion much more successfully than in the neighbouring Lombardy region where only people with severe symptoms were tested, and only in hospitals.

Angelo Borrelli, head of the Civil Protection Agency, said the ongoing rate of contagion and deaths did not mean the national government's measures were ineffective.

"Without these measures we would be seeing far worse numbers and our health service would be in a far more dramatic state," Borrelli told reporters at the weekend.

Australian Associated Press