Italy’s New Coronavirus Cases Stable as Economic Cost Mounts

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Italy’s new coronavirus cases declined slightly on Wednesday, as a credit rating downgrade ramped up pressure on Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte’s plans to gradually emerge from a national lockdown.

Civil protection authorities reported 2,086 cases for the 24-hour period, compared with 2,091 a day earlier. Confirmed cases now total 203,591 in Italy, the original European epicenter of the outbreak.

With Conte already under fire from coalition allies, regional and business leaders for his caution in starting to ease containment measures from May 4, Fitch Ratingsdowngraded the euro area’s third-largest economy by a notch to BBB-, just one level above junk.

While Italy’s government forecasts that GDP will shrink 8% this year,Bloomberg Economics sees the economy plunging 13%. Containment measures have shuttered all non-essential businesses, banned movement within Italy and virtually confined people to their homes except for work, health and emergency reasons.

A cabinet meeting expected late Wednesday could pave the way for a new mobile app to help with contact tracing as the economy restarts, newswire Ansa reported. Conte has pledged a new stimulus package worth at least 50 billion euros ($54 billion), with more liquidity measures for businesses, after his government agreed on an initial 25-billion euro program last month.

Italy registered 323 deaths linked to the virus on Wednesday, compared with 382 the day before. That brings the total number of fatalities to 27,682.

— With assistance by Sonia Sirletti

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