ROME, June 13 (Xinhua) -- Italy recorded 346 new cases of infection from the novel coronavirus in a 24-hour period, but total active infections decreased to 27,485, down from 28,997 a day ago, officials said Saturday.
This came 10 days after the last remaining restrictions under a nationwide lockdown were lifted and Italians were again free to travel within their own country, beginning on June 3. It also came one day after total active infections dipped below the 30,000 mark for the first time since March.
Saturday's figure of new cases was down from the 393 recorded on Friday and 379 on Thursday, the Civil Protection Department said.
Another 1,780 COVID-19 patients have recovered, bringing the total to 174,865, up from 173,085 recoveries on Friday. A further 55 COVID-19 patients have died, taking the death toll since the pandemic began to 34,301.
Of those who tested positive for the new coronavirus, 220 are in intensive care, down from Friday's 227, and 3,747 are hospitalized with symptoms, down from Friday's 3,893, the Civil Protection Department said.
The rest -- 23,518 people, or 86 percent of those who tested positive for the new coronavirus -- are quarantined at home because they are asymptomatic or have very light symptoms.
The overall number of COVID-19 infections, fatalities, and recoveries rose to 236,651 cases over the past 24 hours, against a total of 236,305 cases on Friday.
HIGH-PROFILE DIALOGUE ON ECONOMIC RELAUNCH
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte on Saturday kicked off what will be a marathon nine-day set of high-level talks aimed at relaunching the country's economy after weeks of coronavirus quarantine.
"We shared our strategic objectives (with participants): modernization of the country, a transition toward environmental sustainability, and social inclusion," he told reporters after the day's work was concluded.
Next week, Conte said, the government will consult with Italian civil society -- such as trade unions and the industrial, cultural and business sectors -- to continue debating his government's recovery plan.
"We will make sure we won't waste a single euro," Conte said. "We want to improve our country and our performance, which to us means not only economic growth but also sustainable development."
Also addressing those in attendance Saturday was Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, who expressed optimism over the health of the Italian economy as it emerges from weeks of coronavirus lockdown.
"Your government has taken bold measures, asking people to stay home for long weeks and months," she said. "It required courage, but it worked. And you led the way for other (European Union) member states. You have also taken bold measures to secure jobs, protect companies, and limit the damage to the Italian economy. And after the deep fall in the past months, economic activity is gradually rebounding."
"The recovery will be a generational challenge, not only for Italy but for Europe as a whole," von der Leyen said.
No country can do it alone, "so solidarity is not only the most ethical choice but also the most effective way to deal with a crisis of this magnitude," she said.
Conte first introduced the idea of this conference on June 4, when he said that "with the arrival of this (coronavirus) crisis, the third since 2009, our country's gross domestic product (GDP) will fall back to 2000 levels."
"In the past 13 years more than two million people have left Italy, emptying (it) of many of its most precious energies," the prime minister said on June 4.
Writing on Facebook on June 12, Conte listed some of the objectives of his recovery plan, which include 120 billion euros' worth of public works, a high-speed train network in the country's chronically impoverished South, and a national fiber-optic network.
"These are just some of the objectives at the basis of (our) Recovery Plan," Conte wrote on June 12. "We will discuss these topics in the coming days... with all those who are ready to get to work to get Italy restarted right away."