The number of deaths reported in Italy on Thursday was 712 – up from Wednesday’s total of 683.

There was some confusion as the ministry initially reported 661 new deaths, but later added the figure from the Piedmont region, making a total of 712.

There were 6153 new infections reported across Italy on Thursday – around 1000 more than the day before.

The total number of cases detected in Italy since the outbreak began has now passed 80,500.

This includes 10,361 recovered patients and a total of 8215 deceased.

Italy’s infection rate had slowed for four successive days from Sunday to Wednesday, fuelling hopes that the epidemic was slowing in the country.

But things looked less certain on Thursday after the infection rate rose again, in the worst-hit region of Lombardy and elsewhere.

“I do not know if we have hit the peak or if we have missed something ... all I can say is that I am worried,” Lombardy governor Attilio Fontana told reporters, adding that the situation would soon become clearer.

“I think that in two or three days we will understand if the measures we have taken are working.”

Fear has also been sparked in the southern and central regions, such as Campania and Lazio, as deaths increased there on Wednesday and Thursday.

Italian authorities are concerned that more cases will now be seen in the poorer southern regions, after many people travelled north to south before or shortly after the nationwide quarantine measures were introduced on March 12.

The world is watching closely to see if Italy’s drastic nationwide quarantine measures prevail, as the country prepares to enter its third week under total lockdown.

Experts have previously predicted the number of cases would peak in Italy at some point from this week onward, perhaps in early April.