By Giada Zampano
ROME - Italy confirmed on Saturday that its coronavirus contagion curve was stabilizing.
The country reported another 692 virus-related deaths over the past day, as well as 34,767 more cases.
According to Health Ministry data, the new fatalities registered in the past 24 hours brought the national death toll to 49,261 -- still the second-highest in Europe after the UK.
New daily infections fell by 6.6% from the day before, with the total number of confirmed cases reaching 1,380,531.
The infection rate dropped to 14.7% from 15.6% on Friday, showing that the virus is still circulating, but at a slower pace compared with the past weeks, when it had reached peaks above 17%.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza said “the first signs of an inversion of the trend after weeks of staggering growth are showing up, but they are still completely insufficient.”
Speranza added that the transmission rate is also falling, but it still needs to stabilize below 1, which is the government's countrywide target.
The occupancy rate of intensive care units is more than 41%, well above the 30% critical threshold, indicating that the Italian health system remains under pressure.
After a strong response to the first outbreak last spring, Italy has been struggling to face the second wave of the pandemic.
With most Italian hospitals overwhelmed by coronavirus patients, the government has gradually toughened its restrictions in seven regions, now classified as high-risk "red zones."