Italy's coronavirus outbreak looks closer to levelling off as the number of newly-detected cases fell for the fourth day in a row.
The country's epidemic is the most severe in the world, eclipsing that of China, where the novel coronavirus was first recorded.
Italy now has 57,521 active cases, in a daily increase of 3491, the Civil Protection Agency said on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the daily jump was 3612 and on Monday 3780, on Sunday 3957 and on Saturday a record 4821.
"We are in an apparent stabilisation phase" of the contagion, Civil Protection Agency official Agostino Miozzo said as he presented the data.
"If we want to see this (contagion) curve stabilise and then start declining, it is absolutely indispensable to maintain rigorous social distancing," he added.
The present remained grim for Italy: the death toll rose to 7503, with 683 new fatalities, while overall infections, including deaths and recoveries, soared to 74,386 - a daily increase of 7.5 per cent.
Recoveries were up by about 12 per cent to 9362 and the number of intensive care patients - a closely watched figure given the shortage of hospital beds - rose by only 2.7 per cent, to 3489.
Italy's outbreak is concentrated in Lombardy, the region including Milan. But there are worries about cases escalating in the south, especially if lockdown rules are not respected there.
"The next 10 days will be hell here. We are on the brink of a dramatic spread of the contagion," the President of the Campania region, Vincenzo De Luca, wrote to the central government.
Campania includes Naples. Its governor accused the government of failing to deliver key equipment such as ventilators, masks and other medical gear needed to avoid a "tragedy" in the region.
The whole of Italy is under lockdown measures expiring on April 3 but even if contagion figures keep improving, few people expect restrictions to end soon.
"This is the hardest thing to say but the numbers and facts (say it will take time)," Massimo Galli, head infectologist at the Sacco hospital in Milan, told the SkyTG24 news channel.
Making comparisons with Wuhan, the Chinese city where the epidemic started and where restrictions may ease soon, he said Lombardy was about five and a half weeks behind.
"I hope (it can be) sooner, but it is not very unrealistic to say that we should talk about June" for a return to normality, Galli said.
Wednesday's figures were supposed to be presented by Civil Protection Agency chief Angelo Borrelli but he went into quarantine after catching a fever, a possible COVID-19 symptom.
His office first said it would cancel its daily coronavirus press conference but later found other officials to speak in Borrelli's place.
Borrelli, 55, was tested for the virus and was waiting for results. A dozen members of his staff have already been infected, the agency said on Sunday.