Italy sees second successive drop in active virus cases
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Italy reported its second successive drop Tuesday in the number of current coronavirus cases as it neared a crucial decision on whether to extend its national lockdown.
The civil protection service said the number of people officially being treated for COVID-19 fell by 528 to a total of 107,709. The number went down by 20 on Monday -- its first decline since the Mediterranean country reported its initial cases two months ago.
The death toll rose Tuesday by 534 to 24,648. The official figure is Europe's highest and the second globally after the United States.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte stressed Tuesday that he would not be able to reopen the country fully when the current lockdown ends on May 3. "I would like to be able to say, let's open everything. Right away," Conte wrote on Facebook. "But such a decision would be irresponsible."
Other government officials are also sounding cautious ahead of Conte's announcement at some point later this week. "We must not make any hasty decisions," coronavirus commissioner Domenico Arcuri said. "The virus is still among us -- a little less strongly, but it is still there."
Big business lobbies and leaders of Italy's main industrial regions are pushing Conte to consider the economic damage incurred by the lockdown and reopen more factories and stores.