ROME, May 13 (Xinhua) -- Italy's main coronavirus indicators continued to improve on Thursday, more than two weeks into the country's latest easing of coronavirus restrictions, as vaccine rollout is gaining steam nationwide.
The total number of fully vaccinated residents in Italy was on the cusp of 8 million, a milestone likely to be passed in a few hours.
As of Thursday, 25.6 million people in Italy have received at least one dose of an approved vaccine, which means 13.4 percent of the country's overall population has been fully vaccinated and over 42 percent at least partially vaccinated.
Overall, Italy recorded just over 8,000 new infections in the 24-hour period ending Thursday, with 201 deaths reported over the same period. The number of new infections was under 10,000 for the fifth consecutive day.
Meanwhile, the daily number of deaths has been staying below 500 since April 9, and has now been below 300 for 9 consecutive days.
The total number of patients in intensive-care units was 1,893 on Thursday, a drop of 99 compared to Wednesday and 597 fewer than ten days ago.
With recovered individuals outnumbering new cases again, the total number of active coronavirus cases in Italy continued its steady decline starting from early April, falling to just over 346,000 on Thursday.
The Gimbe Foundation, a health care research entity, and health analysts attributed the recent improvements to the country's vaccination program.
The Gimbe Foundation's calculations showed that over the week of May 5-11, the number of new cases was 19.0 percent lower than the previous week, deaths were 15.4 percent lower, while the intensive-care unit cases were 45.1 percent lower than 35 days ago.
Despite the success, the foundation called for the government to begin actively pushing for vaccinations in high-risk categories rather than the current volunteer system.
Health analysts were similarly cautious, with Guido Rasi, the former executive director of the European Medicines Agency warning that, "In the coming weeks, we will have fewer hospitalizations and fewer deaths from the coronavirus, but we risk seeing the infection rate climb if we do no have success in vaccinating ... young people."
Starting on May 17, rules will allow regions to vaccinate anyone over 40 years old, though regions will set their own rules based on availability and distribution systems.
Sergio Abrignani, an immunologist and a member of the government's scientific and technical committee, was optimistic, saying that the government's strategy of gradually reopening is working.
He predicted that by June, the country's national death rate "will be very similar to that of England with around ten deaths per day compared to the 400 per day we have mourned over the last month."
The improved indicators are reflected in the government's color-coded health restriction scheme.
Until April 25, the entire country was categorized either as "red" or "orange" -- the two most restrictive categories. Now, none of the 20 regions are in the "red" category and three in "orange", with the rest in the "yellow" group, the second least restrictive category. Enditem