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Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Wednesday that Italy must stick with its rigid lockdown to try to curb the COVID-19 epidemic, rejecting calls from businesses to reopen factories, reports Reuters.

"Scientists are telling us not to ease the restrictive measures at all," Conte told German newspaper Bild according to audio files released to the press.

Conte said he was confident that if Italians respected the government's lockdown the data on new infections and fatalities would improve, "but we have to continue with this rigour."

The Civil Protection Agency reported on Wednesday that the daily tally of deaths in Italy, the country worst hit by the coronavirus, had declined from the day before, but new cases accelerated.

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