By Giada Zampano
ROME - Italy on Saturday recorded a fall in both the number of daily deaths and new infections from the novel coronavirus, which however remained at high levels.
According to the latest Health Ministry data, the new fatalities stood at 662, down from 814 on Friday, bringing the national death toll to 59,514 -- the second-highest in Europe after the UK.
Experts explained that the number of deaths still reflects the rising number of infections registered in the past three weeks, adding that it will take some time for the death toll to show a clear slowdown.
The country also recorded 21,052 new cases of the novel coronavirus, down from over 24,000 on Friday.
The general trend seen over the past two weeks confirms that the contagion curve is decelerating, scientists said.
The infection rate fell slightly at 10.8%, still far from the peak of 18% hit in October, when the contagion curve spiked up after a summer lull.
Struggling to contain the second wave of the pandemic, the government adopted stricter measures for the Christmas period in a bid to allow people to celebrate without risking a third wave of infections early next year.
The new curbs -- effective as of Dec. 4 -- will include an almost total ban on international movements and among Italian regions from Dec. 21 to Jan. 6, aimed at avoiding the spread of the virus across the country and limiting huge get-togethers.
The restrictions will be even tougher on Dec. 25-26 and Jan. 1, when citizens will not be allowed inter-city travel.
Both Italian regions and citizens were frustrated by the government measures, complaining that the new rules ignored the need of families living in different areas to reunite during the holidays.
On Saturday, the Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese said that police checks will be stepped up during the holiday period, with 70,000 officers on the ground. Checks at the Italian borders and in airports will also be reinforced.