Italy’s death toll from the coronavirus outbreak in March and April could be nearly 19,000 higher than the official figure of 32,000, the national social security agency said.
According to a new study by Istituto Nazionale della Previdenza Sociale (INPS), Italy's largest social security and welfare institute, the official death figures are not completely “reliable".
The study showed that 156,429 total deaths were registered in Italy in March and April, which is almost 47,000 higher than the average number of fatalities recorded in those months between 2015 and 2019.
However, in the past two months, only 27,938 deaths linked to the coronavirus were reported by the Civil Protection Agency, which releases the official data daily, INPS noted.
The agency said that means there were almost 19,00 more deaths than normal during that period, with the majority recorded in the hard-hit north of the country.
“Given the fact that the number of deaths is quite stable in these times, we can - with the necessary caution - attribute a large portion of these deaths during these past two months to the epidemic,” INPS said.
It also clarified that the increase in the number of deaths was also likely caused by the fact that people suffering from other diseases were unable to receive adequate treatments, as hospitals were overwhelmed by Covid-19 patients.
So far, the coronavirus outbreak has claimed over 32,000 victims in Italy, of which almost half in the northern Lombardy region alone.
In a desperate effort to stop the contagion, Italy was one of the first European countries in early March to impose a nationwide lockdown, which forced citizens at home and obliged businesses to halt their activities.
As the country faces its worst recession since World War II, the Italian government has allowed a partial lifting of the strict lockdown rules starting from May 4.
Italian authorities and scientists, however, have warned Italians that an excessive relaxation of the rules could spark a new wave of contagions, even worse than the first one.
Addressing parliament on the measures taken in the so-called “phase 2” of the emergency, Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte said on Thursday that the country has overcome the worst, but also asked Italians to continue to stick to the rules.
“Now is not the time for parties, for movida [nightlife], for get-togethers," Conte told lawmakers, commenting reports and images of young people gathering at night in some Italian cities.