Italy death toll Photograph:( WION )
'There are signs of a slowdown, which makes us believe that we are close, we could peak in the next few days,' the health chief said
After national health chief warned that Italy has not peaked yet in terms of daily coronavirus cases, the country confirmed its worst single-day death toll, 969.
The infection rate, however, continued declining, with the civil protection agency reporting nearly 86,500 infections in Italy, a rise of 7.4 per cent, down from around 8.0 per cent in previous days.
Earlier, the crisis in worst-hit Italy seemed far from over after experts warned that the country has not seen the peak of infections yet.
"I want to be clear on one point. We have not peaked yet," national health institute (ISS) head Silvio Brusaferro said on Friday.
"There are signs of a slowdown, which makes us believe that we are close, we could peak in the next few days."
Virologist Fabrizio Pregliasco said the reduction in the number of infections "should strengthen our desire to continue. We must not drop our guard."
Brusaferro warned that any lifting of strict measures must be done with extreme caution.
"We'll have to take careful measures for some months in order to avoid the epidemic curve rising again," Brusaferro said.
The country imposed nationwide lockdown on March 9, extending strict measures implemented across the northern region, where the outbreak initially began and took lives of many.
Last week, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said that the decision to shut schools, bars and restaurants and curb movement would have to be pushed beyond the original end-date of April 3.
As per latest figures, 8100 have died in Italy due to COVID-19, infecting nearly 80,000 people.
On Thursday, Italy recorded its lowest daily death rate in the crisis, 8.8 per cent.
But regional officials said that hospitals in hard-hit northern region are still under severe strain.
"We have reached saturation point in intensive therapy, despite having doubled bed numbers," said the chief of the Piedmont region, Alberto Cirio.
"If this rate does not drop, we risk not being able to make it," he added while calling for extra ventilators urgently.
The health professionals are also badly impacted by the outbreak in the country, with the deaths of 44 doctors and nearly 6,500 infections to the health personnel.
Italy's defence minister Lorenzo Guerini thanked military doctors and nurses, adding that they are making the country proud.
However, he said "more sacrifices will be required of you" before the worst is over.
(With AFP inputs)