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Despite Lockdown, Italy's Coronavirus Cases Continue Dramatic Climb

The number of coronavirus cases in Italy continues to soar. In what has become a grim daily ritual, Angelo Borelli, the chief of the country's Civil Protection agency, announced that in the last 24 hours, the death toll from the virus had risen by nearly 800 to a total of 4,825.

That is the largest daily increase since the outbreak was revealed a month ago today. Italy has already surpassed China with the largest number of deaths from the pandemic. It now has 55,578 cases of the coronavirus, up from 47,021 on Friday.

Italian officials warn that too many citizens are flouting the lockdown measures put in place almost two weeks ago. Earlier Saturday, Health Minister Roberto Speranza appealed to Italians to observe the lockdown rules which have been further tightened.

All parks and playgrounds are closed and people are forbidden to travel to weekend homes Friday through Monday. In the northern region of Emilia Romagna, officials issued a decree that bans jogging, cycling and long walks with or without dogs.

The chief of the National Health Institute, Silvio Brusaferro, warned that it is the flouting of the lockdown rules that produces the latest nefarious body-counts.

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Sylvia Poggioli is senior European correspondent for NPR's International Desk covering political, economic, and cultural news in Italy, the Vatican, Western Europe, and the Balkans. Poggioli's on-air reporting and analysis have encompassed the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, the turbulent civil war in the former Yugoslavia, and how immigration has transformed European societies.