Italy reported the lowest single-day coronavirus deaths in 2 1/2 weeks, even as the northern Lombardy region around Milan announced tougher containment measures for the weeks ahead.

Fatalities fell on Sunday to 525, the lowest since March 19, bringing the total since the beginning of the outbreak in Italy to 15,887. New confirmed cases totaled 4,316, compared with 4,805 the day before. Italy now has 128,948 cases, slightly fewer than Spain.

Spain on Sunday saw a third straight decline in new deaths from the virus, raising hopes the worst of its outbreak may be over. U.K. virus death figures also showed a decline, even as the government warned it may consider tighter measures.

Hard-hit Lombardy over the weekend moved to require that citizens leaving their homes shield their mouths and noses with masks or other coverings and insisted residents remain inside for all but essential activities, after seeing a spike in people venturing outside in defiance of the quarantine. The Tuscany region followed suit with similar rules.

Police have fined over 175,000 people since March 11 for violations of the lockdown, according to the Interior Ministry.

As the country prepares for a fifth week of lockdown measures, opposition leader Matteo Salvini of the right-wing League called on the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte to open churches for the coming Easter holiday.


Measures to keep the country shut down have been extended through at least April 13, and Conte is expected to announce revised rules and time lines by the end of next week, daily Il Messaggero reported.

Conte said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday that he can’t yet say when Italy’s lockdown will end.

Some industries may restart operations in mid-April while people will be told to stay indoors at least until May 4, Italian media outlets have reported.

Conte’s government is expected to meet by Monday as Italy finalizes new measures to provide liquidity to companies hit by the outbreak, Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri said Saturday on Rai state television.

The government will guarantee loans up to 800,000 euros at 100%, and boost guarantees to 90% on another 200 billion euros ($216 billion), while companies will be able to seek bank loans up to 25% of their revenue, Gualtieri said.

Another package later this month will include emergency income for people trapped in the so-called underground economy.


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