Italy reports 25,853 new coronavirus cases, 722 deaths - health ministry

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Outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Rome

ROME (Reuters) - Italy reported 722 COVID 19-related deaths on Wednesday, down from 853 the day before, and 25,853 new infections, slightly up from 23,232 on Tuesday, the health ministry said.

There were 230,007 coronavirus swabs carried out in the past day, compared with a previous 188,659.

Italy was the first Western country to be hit by the virus and has seen 52,028 COVID-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the second highest toll in Europe after Britain's. It has also registered 1.48 million cases.

While Italy's daily death tolls have been amongst the highest in Europe over recent days, the rise in hospital admissions and intensive care occupancy has slowed.

The number of people in hospital with COVID-19 stood at 34,313 on Wednesday, a decline of 264 from the day before.

The number in intensive care rose by 32, following an increase of six on Tuesday, and now stands at 3,848.

When Italy's second wave of the epidemic was accelerating fast in the first half of November, hospital admissions were rising by around 1,000 per day, while intensive care occupancy was increasing by about 100 per day.

The northern region of Lombardy, centred on Italy's financial capital Milan, remained the hardest hit area on Wednesday, reporting 5,173 new cases.

(Reporting by Angelo Amante; Editing by Crispian Balmer)