Rome, April 23 : The coronavirus pandemic has claimed over 25,000 lives in locked-down Italy, bringing the total number of active infections, fatalities and recoveries so far to 187,327, according to the latest data released by the country's Civil Protection Department.
Wednesday saw 437 new deaths, bringing the total to 25,085 fatalities since the pandemic first broke out in the northern Lombardy region on February 21, Xinhua news agency reported.
A total of 2,943 additional recoveries were registered on Wednesday compared to Tuesday, bringing the total to 54,543.
It was also the biggest daily recoveries recorded so far.
The active infections stood at 107,699, which is 10 lower than Tuesday.
It was the third consecutive daily drop in the number of active infections nationwide.
A positive trend was also confirmed in the number of patients hospitalized.
Of those infected, 2,384 are in intensive care, down by 87 compared to Tuesday, while 23,805 are hospitalized in normal wards, down by 329.
The rest, or 75.7 per cent, are in isolation at home.
In related news, the number of doctors who have died from the coronavirus infections grew to 144, after two more fatalities were registered in the last 24 hours, the National Federation of Orders of Surgeons and Dentists (FNOMCeO) said.
Also on Wednesday, Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese confirmed a plan was being discussed within the Italian cabinet on the possibility of providing irregular workers, including undocumented migrants, a regular permit.
The measure would aim at allowing irregular workers to fill a labour shortage caused by the coronavirus emergency in some economic sectors, and especially in agriculture.
"Together with the ministries of Agriculture and Labour, we are assessing the positions of undocumented workers, both Italians and foreigners," Lamorgese told senators in a hearing to the upper house.
"This issue arises from the need to find a specific solution to the problems concerning agriculture and fishing industry, in order to remedy the labour shortages in those sectors without affecting national production," she explained.
The first to openly talk about regularizing at least some of the estimated 600,000 undocumented migrants living in the country had been Agriculture Minister Teresa Bellanova in an op-ed on Il Foglio newspaper last week.
"Figures are clear: the regular foreign labour force in Italy's agriculture counts on about 400,000 units (workers); for ten years, Italians have fallen and foreigners have increased," Bellanova explained.
"Today, due to the (coronavirus) emergency, many have returned to their countries of origin, and we are dealing with a vacuum estimated in about 350,000 and with a need for skills."
She argued regularizing undocumented migrants -- many of which working in the fields of southern Italy, and living in unsafe makeshift settlements -- would be a matter of both economy and health safety.
"(It would help) preventing a humanitarian emergency, which might occur in informal settlements crowded with people who are now not working..and at the risk of hunger, at the mercy of the virus threat," the minister wrote.
At the same time, she continued, it would meet the urgent need for labour of many farms, just ahead of the harvest time for many products.
The idea was strongly opposed by right-wing political forces, which expressed fears such regularization might work as a trigger for further irregular immigration into the country.
According to Italy's farmers' association Coldiretti, several spring crops were at risk due to the lockdown imposed in the coronavirus emergency, and the consequent borders closure to foreign workers.
In a statement on Tuesday, the group approved of the agriculture minister's proposal, while calling on the government to provide as soon as possible "more flexible (hiring and paying) tools, such as vouchers for pensioners, students, and redundancy workers" in order to partially fill the gap.
Italy's agricultural sector employed about 1.13 million people last year, according to a report issued by the Italian General Confederation of Agriculture in February.
Italy entered into a national lockdown on March 10 to contain the pandemic.
The lockdown, which is expected to last until May 3, will be followed by a so-called "Phase Two," involving "the gradual resumption of social, economic and productive activities," the Italian government has explained.