The coronavirus epidemic continued to claim lives in locked-down Italy on Friday, according to new data released by the Civil Protection Department.
Speaking during a nightly televised press conference, Civil Protection Department Chief Angelo Borrelli confirmed that 14,955 people have tested positive for the coronavirus and 1,266 have died since the epidemic first emerged in northern Italy on February 21.
Meanwhile, 1,439 patients have so far recovered, said Borrelli, who is also the national commissioner in charge of the coronavirus emergency.
The numbers are up from an official tally on Thursday evening of 12,839 people infected, 1,016 dead, and 1,258 recovered.
Borrelli also confirmed that a flight from China arrived on Thursday evening, bringing "experts and 11 tons of materials, including surgical masks, equipment for intensive care beds, monitors and other material destined for the Red Cross."
According to a Civil Protection Department breakdown, the northern Lombardy region whose capital is Milan was the hardest hit, with 7,732 cases of infection.
Emilia-Romagna was the country's second hardest hit with 2,011 confirmed cases, followed by Veneto with 1,453.
Also on Friday, Economy and Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri expressed "satisfaction at the European Commission's proposed exclusion of all expenditures connected to the coronavirus emergency from deficit (calculations)."
Italy is allocating billions to fight the epidemic and its negative effects on the national economy.
"Now let us act in a coordinated way in order to contain the epidemic and support families, labor, and businesses," Gualtieri said in a statement, stressing the need to "send a strong, common budget stimulus by activating the suspension of the (European Union) Stability Pact ... and fielding innovative instruments to guarantee all the liquidity and support the economy needs."
Meanwhile, leading members of a science and business consortium called Italy's Life Science Cluster (ALISEI) on Friday wrote a letter to Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte, calling for the setup of "a great European consortium made up of top universities and research centers, along with large-scale pharmaceutical and biotech companies and scientists" to work on an extraordinary mission: finding a vaccine against COVID-19 as soon as possible.
"The general situation in Italy and in many European Union member states in connection with the spread of COVID-19 is very worrisome and is causing marked tensions on the operations of national health care systems," the letter said.
With four business associations, five national research centers and 13 regional bodies as its members, ALISEI aims to promote the needs and development potentials of the life sciences sector as a whole, and is committed to operating as inclusively and openly as possible.
Prime Minister Conte on Wednesday evening announced new measures to stem the spread of the coronavirus, including the closure of all retailers and businesses except providers of basic necessities, such as supermarkets, pharmacies, public transportation, post offices, and banks.
The latest measures came after the government placed the entire country on lockdown beginning on March 10, which restricted the movement of the country's some 60 million residents.
People who left home must carry with them an Interior Ministry form filled out with name, address, phone and ID numbers, specifying why they are outside their homes.
The national lockdown runs through April 3.