Coronavirus: Italy 'could be heading for deadlier second peak' after easing lockdown, scientists warn

Italy could be set for a “second peak” of deaths after easing its lockdown measures, researchers tracking the coronavirus outbreak have warned.

According to analysis carried out by Imperial College London, the country could be set for a large increase in deaths within three weeks of partially lifting its social-distancing restrictions.

Currently, Italy has the second highest-death rate in Europe, with 29,315 deaths, behind 29,502 in the UK.

But researchers from Imperial have forecast a second spike will take place if the country returns to just 20% of its pre-lockdown mobility levels – a measure of how much people leave the home.

ROME, May 4, 2020 .A man walks his dog at the Piazza di Spagna in Rome, Italy, May 4, 2020.   The coronavirus pandemic has claimed over 29,000 lives in Italy, bringing the total number of infections, fatalities and recoveries to 211,938 as of Monday, according to the latest data released by the country's Civil Protection Department.    Italians enjoyed more liberties on Monday, as some restrictions on productive activities and personal movements were relaxed for the first time after almost eight weeks. (Photo by Cheng Tingting/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Cheng Tingting via Getty Images)
A man walks his dog at the Piazza di Spagna in Rome. (Getty)

The study warned that several social-distancing measures will need to remain in place if a sudden rise in deaths is to be avoided.

It also recommended the use testing, contact-tracing and self-isolation of people displaying symptoms to stop the virus spreading again.

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Dr Samir Bhatt, from Imperial’s School of Public Health, praised the Italian authorities for their response to the pandemic, but said the worst could be yet to come.

“The impact of COVID-19 on Italy has been tragic but the response taken to limit the impact of the disease has been successful and disease control has been substantively achieved,” he said.

NAPLES, CAMPANIA, ITALY - 2020/05/05: A woman wearing protective mask is next to a bus stop with safe distance signs. Italy begins a staged end to a nationwide lockdown due to the spread of the coronavirus disease. (Photo by Salvatore Laporta/KONTROLAB/LightRocket via Getty Images)
A woman wearing protective mask next to a bus stop in Naples. (Getty)

“Unfortunately, continued social distancing and other measures are required to prevent this success from being rapidly reversed and our work provides a warning against underestimating the importance of such sacrifice.”

And Dr Michaela Vollmer said: “Even small changes in mobility will most likely lead to a resurgence of deaths and the occurrence of a second wave which may be even greater than what Italy has already experienced.”

Over four million Italians returned to work on Monday after seven weeks of lockdown measures.

People in the country are now allowed to visit family members and people with whom they have an "established emotional bond" in the same region.

Parks have also been reopened for people to go running in, and people are allowed to travel large distances to exercise.

Social gatherings are still banned and it is mandatory to wear a mask on public transportation and in closed public spaces.

But the ban on funerals has also been relaxed, with a maximum of 15 mourners allowed to attend.

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