Italy reports 555 coronavirus deaths on Thursday, 23,477 new cases

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

ROME (Reuters) - Italy reported 555 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday against 575 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 23,477 from 16,202.

There were 186,004 swab tests carried out in the past day, the ministry said, up from a previous 169,045.

Italy has seen an official total of 74,159 COVID-19 deaths since its outbreak came to light on Feb. 21, the highest toll in Europe and the fifth highest in the world.

A report on Wednesday by national statistics bureau ISTAT which looked at deaths from all causes since the start of the pandemic suggested the number of coronavirus victims in Italy is probably higher than indicated by official data.

Italy has also reported 2.107 million cases to date, the health ministry said.

Patients in hospital with COVID-19 stood at 23,151 on Thursday, down by 415 from the day before. There were 202 new admissions to intensive care units, compared with 175 on Wednesday.

The current number of intensive care patients rose by 27 -- the first increase for at least a month -- to 2,555, 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 about 1,000 per day, while intensive care occupancy was increasing by about 100 per day.

(Reporting by Gavin Jones)