CORONAVIRUS

Spain’s coronavirus deaths reach 767, with 169 in just the last 24 hours

The number of people infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus has now reached 17,174 in the country, with 3,431 new cases in a day

A passenger at Madrid’s Barajas airport on Thursday.
A passenger at Madrid’s Barajas airport on Thursday.Samuel Sanchez / EL PAÍS

The latest figures from the Health Ministry on Thursday put the number of coronavirus infections in Spain at 17,147, with 939 patients in intensive care and 767 dead – 169 in just the last 24 hours. A total of 1,107 patients with the Covid-19 disease have recovered and have been released from hospital since the epidemic arrived in Spain.

Speaking to the press on Thursday, Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts, explained that the total number of cases in Spain had risen by 3,431 compared to yesterday, an increase of 25%.

He added that these figures can only be evaluated after several days have passed. Spain has been in total lockdown since Saturday night, with members of the public only allowed on the street alone, and to perform essential tasks such as to work, or buy food and pharmaceuticals.

Simón explained that the rise in cases does not suggest that “things are going badly,” but rather that Spain is reaching the peak of cases. “These are the days where we have to continue making an effort,” he said. “We know that it is difficult but reaching that peak and starting a stable descent is our objective.”

Simón insisted that citizens must respect the quarantine. “It means avoiding contact with other people, so there is no transmission,” he explained. “We have to be aware that the better we do this, the quicker the return to normal life will be.”

Also on Thursday, the defense chief of staff, Miguel Ángel Villarroya, explained the activities of the army, which has been widely deployed across Spain to assist with the crisis. The military has, he said, been transporting foodstuffs in Zaragoza, disinfecting ports, airports and hospitals, as well as train stations, Defense installations and some senior residences.

Laurentino Ceña, the joint operational director of the Civil Guard, also spoke at Thursday’s press conference, and began by speaking about the first member of his police force to die from the corona virus, a 37-year-old man with no prior health issues.

Ceña went on to say that there have been no major incidents in Spain, although 11 people have been arrested by his force. “The 10,000 patrols have also been taking care of the most vulnerable members of society,” he said.

The joint operational director of the National Police, José Ángel González, explained that there had been 49 arrests in the last 24 hours related to people who were not respecting the restrictions in place under the state of alarm. He added that at the borders, there had been 900 refusals of entry and two arrests.

Flight restrictions

The Spanish government has today restricted flights to the Canary and Balearic Islands, enforcing, for example, a maximum of one daily flight from Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia to Palma de Mallorca, on the Balearic Island of Mallorca.

The Madrid region has called on medical staff from the army to intervene in its senior homes, in a bid to halt the wave of deaths among the elderly in such residences. At least 51 seniors in homes have died so far in the region, according to figures collated by EL PAÍS.

The Madrid regional government is today opening its first hotel that has been repurposed into a hospital, in the Ayre Gran Hotel Colón. The idea is to ease the pressure on healthcare centers such as Gregorio Marañón, Infanta Leonor and La Princesa.

Madrid regional premier, Isabel Díaz Ayuso – who has tested positive for the coronavirus – wrote on Twitter on Thursday that patients in Madrid hospitals being treated for Covid-19 would be given free access to television services, given that they cannot receive visitors.

The mayor of the city of Madrid, José Luis Martínez-Almeida, said on Thursday that he supported the complete closure of the city, “under the right circumstances.” But, he said, “this is something that has to be decided in a coordinated manner and only if the health authorities tell us to do so.”

Forty-nine people have been arrested in the last 24 hours for not respecting the restrictions in place under the state of alarm

The National Police launched a message via Twitter to remind people that even though today is a holiday in many of Spain’s regions, for San José (it is also Father’s Day in Spain today), that journeys to second homes or to visit other people were still prohibited.

In the Basque Country, hundreds of residents tried to violate the restrictions implemented under the state of alarm in Spain, heading for their second homes in Cantabria to celebrate San José. Roads leading to Castro Urdiales and Laredo, located a half hour from Bilbao, even saw traffic jams, until the Civil Guard intervened to fine motorists, and order them to return to their homes, Juan Navarro reports.

In Ecuador, vehicles at the airport in Guayaquil invaded the runway in a bid to stop an Iberia flight from Madrid with 11 crew members on board from landing. The public prosecutor in Ecuador announced via Twitter that it would be investigating the incident.

English version by Simon Hunter.