Spain registers second-highest daily rise in coronavirus infections in the world

Madrid government believes fall in the number of new cases will only be seen in the region after 10 days of total lockdown

A woman takes a selfie at on the streets of a deserted Madrid.
A woman takes a selfie at on the streets of a deserted Madrid.Joaquin Corchero / AFP7 (Europa Press)
El País

Spanish health authorities reported on Monday that the number of coronavirus infections in Spain had risen by 1,000 to 9,191 cases. The jump of 13% makes Spain the country with the second-highest number of new daily cases in the world, according to the latest comparable data from the World Health Organization. With 9,191 infections, Spain has also overtaken South Korea to become the country with the fourth-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world.

Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts, said on Monday that the mortality rate for coronavirus remained at around 3% and that the number of cases was expected to rise over the next 10 days. According to Simón, 309 people in Spain have died, 540 have recovered from the Covid-19 disease and 431 remain in intensive care.

More than half of the cases (4,695, or 60%) are located in the Madrid region. The Madrid government announced on Monday that it believes that a fall in the number of new infections will only start to be registered in the region in around 10 days, by March 25 or 26, while the number of patient discharges will begin to exceed the number of new contagions around April 15.

Spain’s Transportation Minister José Luis Ábalos said on Monday morning that the state of alarm declared by the Cabinet on Saturday would “last more than the 15 days” initially established. Speaking to the state radio network RNE, the minister explained that two weeks would not be enough for Spain to “win the battle” against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.

The news came as the premier of Madrid region, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, announced that she had also tested positive for the coronavirus. The Popular Party (PP) politician is the latest high-profile figure to be confirmed to have been infected, after the deputy premier of the Catalan regional government, Pere Aragonès, Equality Minister Irene Montero and even the Spanish prime minister’s wife, Begoña Gómez, tested positive for SARS-CoV-2. Later on Monday, Catalan regional premier Quim Torra also confirmed that he was infected with the virus.

Local police in Barcelona have been instructing citizens to return to their homes in normally bustling public areas such as La Rambla boulevard

On the second full day of the total lockdown of Spain, with citizens only permitted to leave their houses to go and buy food or get to their place of work, among other exceptions, the mayor of the city of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, said that the local police would be on the streets of the capital to ensure that citizens respected the conditions of the state of alarm.

“Yesterday 199 fines were levied on people who were in the street when they shouldn’t be,” the Madrid mayor said today. “There was even one arrest.” Speaking on state television channel TVE, the mayor called on companies to help employees work from home in a bid to limit circulation in the capital, which has been particularly hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

Also in Madrid, the local authorities opted to waive all parking charges on the city’s streets. Until now, the suspension had only applied to the areas surrounding area hospitals.

Local police in Barcelona have also been instructing citizens to return to their homes in normally bustling public areas such as La Rambla boulevard. Barcelona City Hall has also suspended the use of the public bicycle-sharing system.

A police officer tells passers-by on La Rambla, Barcelona to clear the streets.
A police officer tells passers-by on La Rambla, Barcelona to clear the streets.Joan Sánchez

Speaking on TVE on Monday, Finance Minster María Jesús Montero sought to assure the Spanish public that there was no shortage of basic goods and foodstuffs in order to deal with the crisis. “But the Health Ministry has to be prepared to assign those resources where they are necessary, and when they are necessary,” she said. The central government has widespread powers under the state of alarm that will allow it, among other measures, to take over industries or businesses where necessary to ensure the supply of essential items.

On Monday, Interior Minister Fernando Grande Marlaska is due to oversee the first meeting of the State Committee for the Coordination of Civil Protection, which will involve the participation of all of Spain’s 17 regions and will be responsible for coordinating the response to the coronavirus crisis. “Coordination between the government and the entirety of the regions and administrations is of vital importance,” the minister said on Sunday evening at a press conference. “It is paramount at the current time to be as efficient as possible.” He added that “closing the borders is a real possibility.”

On Sunday the government backtracked on its original plan to allow hairdressers to open during the state of alarm. The move came on the request of regional premiers across Spain, after the prime minister held a video conference call with all 17 leaders on Sunday. The service will only be available in people’s homes, and provided for the most vulnerable members of society for reasons of hygiene. This was why the closure of hairdressers was initially left out of the central government’s measures.

Basque regional election postponed

According to several sources, Basque parties have agreed to postpone the regional election scheduled for April 5 due to the coronavirus health crisis. The regional government will approve a decree postponing the polls to a later date on Wednesday.

Impact on business

Burger King Spain announced on Monday that it will present a temporary workforce reduction (ERTE) measure to its 14,000 workers after closing all its restaurants and ending its delivery service under the new lockdown restrictions.

In Spain’s northern Basque Country, the automobile manufacturer Mercedes closed its industrial plant in Vitoria, which, with 5,000 workers, is the largest in the region.

Applause for healthcare workers

Once again on Sunday night, there was applause from the balconies of homes across Spain, in support of the healthcare staff working to combat the coronavirus epidemic.

The scene was a repeat of an initiative organized via social media and messaging services such as WhatsApp on Saturday night, when citizens took to their balconies at 10pm to applaud those working to fight the pandemic. On Sunday night the time was brought forward to 8pm to allow children to participate. Messages on social media are encouraging the gesture to be repeated every day.

According to a poll by IMOP Insights, 84% of Spaniards trust that the Spanish health system is prepared to face the pandemic. The survey is based on the responses of 713 adults who were interviewed between March 9 and 14.

Lottery suspended

Lottery draws organized by Spain’s ONCE foundation were suspended from Monday onward, including the special Día del Padre (Father’s Day) draw. The foundation will instead be focusing on attending to blind citizens or people with other types of disabilities.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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