Italy reports 459 coronavirus deaths on Friday - health ministry

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Spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Rome

ROME (Reuters) - Italy reported 459 coronavirus-related deaths on Friday against 505 the day before, the health ministry said.

The daily tally of new infections increased by 19,037 from 18,040 the day before, taking the total number of cases since Italy's epidemic began to 2.02 million.

Italy on Thursday became the eighth country in the world to exceed 2 million officially recorded cases.

The number of swab tests carried out in the past day was 152,334 from a previous 193,777, the health ministry said.

The first Western country hit by the virus, Italy has reported 71,359 deaths since its outbreak came to light on Feb. 21, the highest toll in Europe and the fifth highest in the world.

Patients in hospital with COVID-19 stood at 23,402, down by 668 from the day before.

The current number of intensive care patients decreased by 5 to 2,584, reflecting those who died or were discharged after recovery.

When Italy's second wave of the epidemic was accelerating fast in the first half of November, hospital admissions were rising by around 1,000 per day, while intensive care occupancy was increasing by about 100 per day.

(Reporting By Philip Pullella)