We statistically investigate the Coronavirus Disease 19 (COVID-19) pandemic, which became particularly invasive in Italy in March 2020. We show that the high apparent lethality or case fatality ratio (CFR) observed in Italy, as compared with other countries, is likely biased by a strong underestimation of the number of infection cases. To give a more realistic estimate of the lethality of COVID-19, we use the actual (March 2020) estimates of the infection fatality ratio (IFR) of the pandemic based on the minimum observed CFR and analyze data obtained from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, a good representation of a "laboratory" case-study from an isolated system in which all the people have been tested. From such analyses, we derive more realistic estimates of the real extent of the infection as well as more accurate indicators of how fast the infection propagates. We then isolate the dominant factors causing the abnormal severity of the disease in Italy. Finally, we use the death count-the only data estimated to be reliable enough-to predict the total number of people infected and the interval of time when the infection in Italy could end.
Keywords: COVID-19; epidemic in Italy; statistical forecast.