Italian health officials declared victory Friday over the coronavirus in the poorer southern regions, where hospitals had been stretched to breaking point under the strain of the pandemic.
Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte had warned six weeks ago that Italy's ability to conquer COVID-19 depended on whether cases can stay largely contained to the richer north.
"We have prevented the spread of contagions in southern regions," public health council chief Franco Locatelli told reporters.
"This is now a fact supported by figures."
The latest data from Italy's civil protection service offered new reasons for Conte not to extend some of the strictest restrictions when they expire on May 4.
They showed the number of people currently being treated for COVID-19 rising by only a few hundred for the first time since the outbreak began.
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