Official figures released on Sunday by the Spanish Health Ministry showed that a total of 6,528 people in the country have now died from the coronavirus, with 838 new deaths in the last 24 hours. Registered infections of the SARS-CoV-2 virus stand at 78,797, with 4,907 people in intensive care units (ICUs) across Spain. Some 14,709 patients have recovered from the Covid-19 disease and have been released from hospital care. The majority of deaths during the ongoing crisis (5,000) have taken place over the last seven days.
The figure of 838 deaths in the last 24 hours is the highest day-on-day increase seen so far during the ongoing coronavirus crisis in Spain. On Saturday the Health Ministry announced that there had been 832 deaths, and on Friday the figure was 769.
Including today’s data, the death rate in Spain from the disease is currently at 8.3%, which is half a point up on yesterday’s figure.
Speaking at the daily government press conference about the coronavirus crisis, Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts, on Sunday pointed out that the daily number of new cases had been falling for several days now. “Today it is 9%, but we need to be careful, because there may be a delay [in reporting] given that it is a weekend,” he said.
Simón also explained that 20% of patients had been discharged from hospital. “It appears that the situation is stabilizing, but the main problem is to avoid the ICUs from becoming overwhelmed,” he said.
Spain has been under a state of alarm for the last two weeks, with residents confined to their homes apart from essential activities such as the purchase of food or medication, and to get to their place of work. Given the worsening of the situation, however, and the congestion in Spanish hospitals’ ICUs, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez announced last night that the lockdown would be intensified, with all non-essential workers also prohibited from leaving their houses.
On Sunday morning, the Cabinet meeting at which this new plan is due to be approved got underway. Opposition parties have said that they support the stricter measures, but criticized the government for its response to the crisis, accusing the executive of “improvising.”
On Sunday, Simón explained that mobility of citizens in Spain had been reduced, and that this was helping to control transmission rates. “It is very likely that the epidemic is progressing correctly thanks to the efforts of all of us, but the number of people in ICUs continues to rise, and there are a number of regions that are at their limit,” he said. “This is why we have to be strict with the application of control strategies.”
Simón struck an optimistic note, despite the high numbers of deaths registered on Sunday. “All of the indicators on the progress of the epidemic are going in the right direction,” he said. “The critical point now is to guarantee that the ICUs do not reach saturation point.”
On Saturday it emerged that Madrid – the region that has been worst-hit by the coronavirus – was close to having all of its 1,500 ICU beds occupied by patients. As of yesterday, Madrid accounted for 1,404 ICU patients, which is 30.6% of the national total of 4,575. The ICU system could become overwhelmed in the region by the end of next week or the beginning of the following.
Madrid premier Isabel Díaz Ayuso announced on Sunday that she would be signing a decree declaring a state of official mourning from Monday in honor of the 3,000 victims of the Covid-19 disease in the region. The Madrid flag will fly at half mast at public buildings indefinitely, and the regional government will invite residents to observe a minute of silence at 12pm every day in memory of those who have died. Díaz Ayuso announced several weeks ago that she has the coronavirus, but has continued to work from isolation in a hotel apartment.
Infections among security forces
Police unions and Civil Guard associations in Spain have calculated that more than 500 officers in the Madrid region have been infected with the coronavirus, and 2,000 are currently in quarantine. The unions called for more personal protective material for officers, and improved organizational structures for the police and the Civil Guard.
Equality Minister Irene Montero, who was confirmed to have the coronavirus several weeks ago, has tested positive for the virus once again after having passed the quarantine period. Montero is reported to be in a good condition, and will continue to work in isolation from her home following the instructions of the health authorities. Her partner, Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias, does not have the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Spanish opera singer Plácido Domingo, who recently announced that he has the coronavirus, has been admitted to a hospital in Acapulco to be treated for the Covid-19 disease. The tenor “is stable,” according to a statement released by his family to Spanish news agency EFE.
Residents return to Spain
Around 2,000 tourists and residents of Spain were able to return home on Saturday, thanks to what the Foreign Affairs Ministry described as “intense” collaboration and coordination with other countries. A total of 215 Spanish embassies and consulates have maintained “close dialogue” with other diplomatic bases in order to bring the residents home from abroad, as well as facilitating the return of foreign nationals to their home countries from Spain.
Iberia air link to China
Former Spanish flag carrier Iberia has established an air link with China in order to bring much-needed healthcare materials to Spain. The connection will operate with Airbus A350 planes in collaboration with the Spanish Federation of Health Technology Companies (FENIN). Three flights have so far been scheduled, landing in Spain from Shanghai on March 30, 31 and April 1. They will bring 90 tons of necessary materials. Three weekly flights are expected subsequently.
With reporting by Oriol Güell and Isabel Valdés.
English version by Simon Hunter.