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Italy is one of the European countries hit hardest by COVID-19 and one of the top 10 worst-affected countries globally. On Sunday, Italy surpassed Britain to become the nation with the worst official coronavirus death toll in Europe. Though it registered 484 COVID-19 deaths on Sunday one of its lowest one-day death counts in about a month the number pushed its official toll to 64,520, while Britain's stood at 64,267, as recorded by Johns Hopkins University. As of Tuesday, Italy's total coronavirus confirmed cases stood at 1,843,712, which is the 7th highest in the world, according to the World Health Organisation data.
Italy is also the first nation outside Asia to suffer a major coronavirus outbreak. The country reported its first known Covid-19 case ON February 21, 2020. But researchers believed that the viral disease started circulating in Italy as early as November 2019, about three months before the country's first case was reported.
An oropharyngeal swab specimen collected in early December 2019 from a four-year-old boy who lived in the surrounding area of Milan tested positive for Covid-19. The results of this study were published by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday, reports Xinhua news agency.
According to the researchers at the University of Milan, the boy reported experiencing cough and rhinitis on November 21, 2019 and was taken to the emergency department with respiratory symptoms and vomiting. Neither the boy nor his family had reported travel history. This means it was a local case and he was infected in the region of Lombardy, where he lives.
On December 1, he had an onset of a measles-like rash, but the oropharyngeal swab specimen tested negative for measles.
Maculopapular lesions have been among the most prevalent cutaneous manifestations observed during the Covid-19 pandemic, the authors of the study noted.
The boy's sample was one the many unresolved cases that were then re-tested for COVID-19 at the University of Milan. Out of the 39 samples studied, his was positive.
These new findings and other evidence of early Covid-19 spread in Europe indicate that the coronavirus outbreak began in late autumn 2019, they added.
The other evidence that supports the theory that the novel coronavirus was in circulation earlier than previously thought was the discovery of traces of virus in the country's wastewater last year.
The Italian National Institute of Health collected and examined 40 samples from sewage plants in northern Italy from October 2019 to February 2020. Surprisingly, COVID-19 was detected in samples from both Milan and Turin on December 18, 2019.
Based on this finding, a national surveillance system of the country's sewage system was established to help identify new outbreaks.
Scientists have stressed the need for further investigation to retrace the route of transmission of the virus to find out when and how coronavirus crisis began.
Domenico Arcuri, Rome's special commissioner for the COVID-19 emergency said on Sunday that Italy is hoping to begin vaccinating socio-medical staff and residents of homes for the elderly with 1.8 million doses in mid-January, Reuters reported.
The country plans to set up primrose-shaped pavilions in its artistic squares to dispense vaccines when the vaccination campaign kicks off next month.
According to Arcuri, there would be about 300 distribution sites in Italy initially, and gradually increased to 1,500 once the vaccination campaign is at its peak.
The Italian government is confident that most of its people will be vaccinated by September.
With inputs from IANS
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