By ROME – Italy on Saturday reported 686 new deaths related to the novel coronavirus, down 17% from the day before.

According to the latest Health Ministry data, the country also reported 26,323 new cases in the past 24 hours, down 7% from Friday, reaching a total of 1,564,532 since the start of the outbreak.

With Saturday’s daily deaths, the national death toll rose to 54,363, still the second-highest in Europe after the UK.

However, the infection rate continued to fall, reaching 11.6%, far from the peak at over 16% seen two weeks ago.

Experts stressed that the virus is circulating at a much slower pace, but it has not been defeated yet. They warned citizens against lowering their guard and asked them to follow safety measures also during the Christmas holidays.

After struggling to contain the second wave of the pandemic, the Italian government is still studying new measures for the Christmas period, in a bid to allow people to celebrate with their relatives without risking a third wave of contagion early next year.

According to reports in the Italian press, restaurants will stay closed on Dec. 25-26 to avoid huge get-togethers and a nationwide night curfew will not be lifted.

The government is expected to approve a special decree with the new measures in early December.

Copyright 2022 Anadolu Agency. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.