The Italian economy suffered a quarter-on-quarter contraction of 4.7 per cent in the first quarter of the year, official statistics agency Istat said on Thursday.
The major drop was expected as a result of novel coronavirus lockdown measures.
Italy is one of the countries in the world that has been worst hit by the pandemic.
The ANSA news agency quoted Istat as saying that the quarterly contraction was the largest ever since the start of the current historical time series in the first quarter of 1995.
Italian bank UniCredit had been expecting an even larger drop of 5 per cent.
App for Coronavirus contact tracing
The Italian government has approved the use of a mobile phone app to support contact-tracing efforts in the fight against the spread of novel Coronavirus (COVID-19).
The decision was taken in an overnight cabinet meeting, the government said on Thursday in a statement.
The use of the app, known as “Immuni,” will not be compulsory, but officials say it will be effective only if at least 50 per cent of the population downloads it.
The app allows a user who tests positive for the novel coronavirus to warn people he or she has been in close contact with via an anonymous message.
To ensure privacy, Immuni will not use geolocation technology but is expected to detect nearby mobile phones using Bluetooth, which should therefore always be turned on.
The government said people who refuse to use the app will not be penalised in any way, and said only public or state-controlled institutions will store and handle data from the app.
According to media reports, the app should be ready by mid-May.
According to Vittorio Colao, a former Chief Executive of Vodafone and Head of a Government Advisory Panel on Lockdown Exit Plans, “It is important to launch it by the end of May”.
“If everybody or nearly everybody has it by the summer, good; otherwise it will not be of much use,” Colao told the Corriere della Sera newspaper on Wednesday.
Italy is one of the countries in the world worst affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with 27,682 deaths and 203,591 infections reported as of Wednesday.