ROME

Italy on Saturday reported 55 more novel coronavirus-related fatalities, bringing the country’s death toll to 34,301. 

The slowing trend in death numbers registered in May has been confirmed early June, showing that the worst of the pandemic has been left behind.

The tally of active infections again fell on Saturday, with a decline of 1,512 that brought the total to 27,485.

Meanwhile, recoveries continued to climb, surging to 174,865 as more patients left intensive care, lifting pressure on Italy’s strained health care system.

The northern Lombardy region remains the worst-hit nationwide. The number of fatalities in the region rose to 16,428 — almost half the countrywide tally — while 210 new cases were reported over the last 24 hours.

Health Minister Roberto Speranza announced on Saturday that Italy, Germany, France, and the Netherlands have signed a contract with pharmaceutical group AstraZeneca to provide European citizens with 400 million doses of an anti-coronavirus vaccine.

The vaccine — developed by the University of Oxford with the help of Italian firm IRBM — is already in an advanced phase of experimentation, which is expected to be completed in the autumn, Speranza wrote in a Facebook post.

According to the minister, the first batch of doses should be available by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte inaugurated at Rome’s Villa Pamphili villa his much-awaited economic summit, dubbed The General States of the Economy.

The meeting — expected to last until the end of next week — reunites national and international policymakers to discuss a long-term plan able to address Italy’s longstanding problems. Opposition parties deserted it, accusing Conte of using it only to boost his image.

The first day of the summit included an address by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. In a video-message, she stressed the need for Italy to deliver much-needed reforms to access the EU recovery fund proposed to help struggling countries face the heavy fallout from the pandemic.

Italy is expected to obtain the largest contribution of €750 billion fund, proposed by the European Commission, which will be discussed by EU members next week. But Italian ruling parties are already divided over how to use the funds.

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