The answer lies partly in demographics, public health experts say. Italy has one of the world’s oldest populations, second only to Japan. Nearly one in four Italians is over 65, an age group much more likely to succumb to the disease.

Another factor: Multigenerational homes are especially common in Italy, potentially exposing older people to infection from their younger relatives.

Since the pandemic began, 95% of those killed by the virus in Italy have been over 60, and 86% over 70. Deaths in many other countries have also been concentrated among older people, but there are proportionately more of them in Italy.