Italy’s coronavirus infections reached 7,332 on Wednesday – the highest daily increase recorded since the beginning of the pandemic.
There were 43 more fatalities, bringing the death toll to 36,289.
The biggest increase was in Lombardy, where there were 1,844 new cases, followed by Campania in the south, Veneto and Lazio.
The number of people hospitalised for Covid-19 also increased by over 400 to 5,470 within the last 24 hours, with 539 people in intensive care.
A doctors’ union has warned that if Italy’s daily infections reach the same level as in France then hospitals would hold up for no more than two months.
Walter Ricciardi, the scientist advising the health ministry on the pandemic, said on Wednesday that new cases in Italy could eclipse 16,000 a day by the beginning of November if not sooner.
The government has ruled out a new national lockdown, saying they would instead target specific areas. However, Andrea Crisanti, a top scientist, said a Christmas lockdown “could be the order of things”.
“You could reset the system, lower the transmission of the virus and increase contact tracing. As we are, the system is saturated,” he added.
Cases have leapt since economic activity resumed after the summer holidays, with many experts criticising packed public transport.