Italy reports 553 COVID-19 deaths on Saturday, 16,308 new cases -ministry

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MILAN (Reuters) - Italy reported 553 coronavirus-related deaths on Saturday against 674 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections decreased to 16,308 from 17,992.

There were 176,185 swabs carried out in the past day, down from a previous 179,800 the ministry said.

The first Western country hit by the virus, Italy has seen 68,447 COVID-19 fatalities since its outbreak emerged in February, the highest toll in Europe and the fifth-highest in the world. It has also registered nearly 1.94 million cases to date.

Patients in hospital with COVID-19 stood at 25,364 on Saturday, down by 405 from the day before. There were 160 new admissions to intensive care units, compared with 189 on Friday.

The number of intensive care patients decreased by 35 to 2,784 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 Agnieszka Flak; Editing by Catherine Evans)