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Italy: Death toll surpasses 100,000 as variant cases continue to rise
Italy has recorded 100,000 coronavirus deaths, a year after it became the first western country to impose a total lockdown and as it braces for a third wave of the pandemic.

Italy’s recently appointed prime minister, Mario Draghi, said that passing the “terrible threshold” of 100,000 deaths was something “we would never have imagined a year ago”.

On 9 March 2020, his predecessor, Giuseppe Conte, imposed unprecedented national restrictions as the pandemic took hold. At the time, Italy had registered 463 COVID-19 deaths and 9,172 infections.

One year on, the number of deaths on Monday rose to 100,103 – the highest in Europe after the UK – while the total number of infections since the onset of the pandemic last week eclipsed 3 million.

Italy is grappling with rapidly spreading coronavirus variants, especially the UK variant, which makes up more than 50% of new infections. Lombardy remains the hardest-hit region, with hospitals in certain areas, especially the province of Brescia, becoming overwhelmed again. Other areas of the country that were hardly touched during the first wave, such as Perugia in Umbria, have become virus hotspots.

In the week between 24 February and 2 March, the number of new infections rose by a third to more than 123,000 – the highest since early December.

Hospital admissions have been rising nationally, with 21,831 people being treated for COVID-19 in general wards and 2,700 in intensive care.

Italy emerged from the tough lockdown of last spring in early May, but since a resurgence of infections in the autumn has been trying to avoid another generalized lockdown by using a color-tiered system of restrictions across the country’s 20 regions depending on the severity of the virus’s spread and capacity of hospitals to cope.

Stricter restrictions, which could place all or half of the country in the toughest “red zone” category, are expected to be announced if the daily number of infections surpasses 30,000 by Friday.

Luigi Di Maio, the foreign minister, wrote on Facebook on Monday that with the current data, “there is no alternative to stricter measures”. In a poll by Corriere della Sera at the weekend, 44% of Italians said they would support another tough lockdown, up from 30% two weeks before.

Imagine that hellhole. I count myself lucky that I'm not there nor am I in China.

I hope these places get well very soon. They need more miracles and less deaths.

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