Spain has overtaken China to become the country with the second-highest number of coronavirus fatalities in the world after Italy.
The latest figures from the Health Ministry on Wednesday put the number of deaths at 3,434, above the 3,287 recorded in China, and behind Italy, where at least 6,820 people have died from the Covid-19 disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
In the last 24 hours, 738 people died from the virus in Spain, a day-on-day rise of 27%, the Spanish government reported on Wednesday. The number of infections in Spain rose to 47,610 – a jump of 7,937 or 20% since Tuesday. In comparison, the rate of infections and fatalities rose on Tuesday by 20% and 23% respectively.
More than 5,300 people have recovered from the Covid-19 disease and have been discharged from hospital, while there are still 26,960 in hospital, 3,166 of whom are in intensive care.
Speaking to the press on Wednesday, Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts, said that “the daily rise in fatalities has stabilized, meaning we are probably not far from the national peak” of infections.
The health expert warned, however, that Spain’s healthcare system would continue to feel the strain long after the peak is reached given the time it takes for patients to present symptoms. “We know that deaths occur with a significant delay with respect to the date when symptoms begin showing,” he said, adding that it is possible that Spain will see a rise in the number of hospitalizations, “whether or not we see a drop in transmissions.”
“We are controlling the transmission [of the virus], but we have to take care with contacts in the home when they start presenting symptoms,” he added.
Simón said that while the number of patients in intensive care was “stabilizing” overall, the northeastern region of Catalonia saw nearly a 50% jump in admissions since Tuesday.
On whether hospitals were suffering from shortages, Simón replied: “Protective equipment resources are not easy to get. There is an international battle for them. Spain is doing an enormous amount of work to get them. It is true that in some hospitals, there has been very limited access.”
Spain to spend €432 million on protective equipment
Health Minister Salvador Illa announced on Wednesday that Spain had reached agreements to buy a large supply of personal protective equipment to combat the coronavirus pandemic. “Spain has closed [a deal] with China for the purchase of more than €432 million in material,” said Illa. According to the minister, Spain will receive 950 ventilators between April and June, 11 million gloves over the next four weeks, 5.5 million rapid tests between March and April, as well as 550 million face masks that will be regularly delivered. “Additionally, the government will activate the production of these categories of products,” he added.
José Ángel González, the joint operational director of the National Police, reported today that 55 people were arrested on Tuesday, and 6,039 reports filed for disobedience.
The police chief said that two men from La Línea de la Concepción in the south of Spain attacked vehicles carrying senior citizens who were being transferred from a residence in the nearby municipality of Alcalá del Valle, where an outbreak was detected at the care home.
The general secretary for transportation, María José Rallo del Olmo, said that air travel continued to slow down under the lockdown. “Operations have fallen 90% with respect to last year’s figures,” she said.
Deaths in senior homes
Spain’s senior homes have seen numerous outbreaks of coronavirus. Twenty-three people, two of whom were nuns, have died at the Santísima Virgen y San Celedonio senior home in Madrid. More than 30 care workers at the home remain in quarantine due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to sources from the center, who have called for the facility – which has 150 residents – to be turned into a hospital.
Meanwhile, in Barcelona three more residents at the Santa Oliva de Olesa de Montserrat senior home in Barcelona have died from Covid-19, bringing the total to 12, according to a press release from Barcelona City Hall. The city council said that another six residents had been admitted to hospital with the virus.
An 89-year-old man named Rafael García told EL PAÍS that he fled a residency in Madrid because he “feared for his life” after several people died at the center. “Although I am nearly 90 years of age, with slow legs and severe health problems, my mind is in a perfect state. I do not want to face my final moments of life, if it is my time, like so many others are, suffering in absolute loneliness, either from abandonment or neglect,” he said.
Over 65% of Spaniards support urgent measures
According to the latest poll from Spain’s CIS public research institute, 65.2% of Spaniards surveyed were in favor of the government taking urgent measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus, while 24.2% were against. The poll is based on surveys of 4,000 people taken between March 1 and 13 – the day before the Spanish Cabinet approved a state of alarm that effectively put the entire country on lockdown.
According to the results, 54.7% of respondents “mostly agreed” that health authorities had adequately informed them about the coronavirus.
Health worker deaths
Two family doctors have died from Covid-19 in Spain. Isabel Muñoz, 59, who was in self-isolation with “mild” coronavirus symptoms, passed away on Tuesday in Salamanca before tests could confirm she had contracted the disease. The woman had been confined to her home since March 15 and had been communicating with her friends and neighbors remotely, but on Tuesday she stopped replying to messages. The National Police entered her home with emergency services where they found her body.
In the southern Spanish province of Córdoba, Manuel Barragán, 63, died on Wednesday, according to Jesús Aguirre, the head of the Andalusian regional health department. The latest figures from the Health Ministry put the number of deaths in Andalusia at 113, with 3,010 confirmed cases.
Around 5,400 health workers have contracted the coronavirus, according to the Health Ministry. Up until Wednesday, the only health worker to die from the disease had been a 52-year-old nurse in the Basque Country.
English version by Melissa Kitson.