Daily coronavirus deaths in Spain fall to 213, but total now exceeds 26,000

Health authorities say that the figures should start to reflect whether the relaxation of confinement measures has had an effect on the downward trend of the outbreak

Two health workers from the Hospital de Mar in Barcelona.
Two health workers from the Hospital de Mar in Barcelona.Alejandro García (EFE)

Official figures from the Health Ministry released on Thursday showed that there were 213 coronavirus-related fatalities in the last 24 hours, a slight fall from the 244 recorded on Wednesday.

But the number of total Covid-19 deaths in Spain has now passed another grim milestone, with 26,070 recorded victims, according to today’s official figures. The number of infections since the epidemic began, as measured by the more reliable PCR testing, stands at 221,447, a daily rise of 754.

In the past 24 hours, 2,509 coronavirus patients have recovered from the disease, bringing the total number of discharged patients to 128,511. This represents a 2% rise of the total.

Speaking at the government’s daily press conference on Thursday, Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies, said the figures were in line with the falling trend seen over the past few weeks.

The health official explained that from today the data should reflect whether the relaxation of the coronavirus confinement measures has impacted the evolution of the outbreak curve. “Nothing has been observed for now,” he said. “We are maintaining this downward trend.”

Simón also spoke about the process to decide whether or nor regions in Spain can move to the next stage of the deescalation of coronavirus measures. On Wednesday, all of the country’s 17 regions, with the exception of Catalonia and Castilla y León, requested to move from the current Phase 0 to Phase 1 on Monday, May 11. This would involve allowing businesses and street cafés to partially reopen, and for members of the public to meet in groups of 10 people or fewer, either in the open air or in private residences.

“The decision has to be taken by the Health Ministry, in agreement with the region, prior to an expert report,” he said. “Those [regions] that have asked to change phases on May 11 will have to be approved in the coming days. I understand that a decision will be made by Friday or Saturday.”

New commission for coronavirus recovery effort

Spain’s lower house, the Congress of Deputies, formally established on Thursday the Commission for the Social and Economic Reconstruction of Spain, a new body that aims to plan the future of the country after the coronavirus crisis.

The commission will be made up of 46 members, 13 from the Socialist Party (PSOE), nine from the Popular Party (PP), five from Vox, four from Unidas Podemos, four from the mixed group (which is made up of parties with fewer than five seats in Congress), while the Catalan Republican Left (ERC), the Basque Nationalist Party (PNV) and the Basque party EH Bildu each have one representative.

PSOE lawmaker Patxi López was elected president of the commission on Thursday.

The government wants the new body to center debate on four areas: strengthening the public healthcare system; reactivating the economy and modernizing the productive model; strengthening systems of social protection, of caregivers and improving the tax system; and Spain’s position before the European Union. The PP has asked that a fifth point be added to the agenda regarding how the crisis has affected public freedoms in Spain, and has demanded that the commission be allowed to call on public officials to appear at open sessions.

Madrid premier agrees to change fast-food meals for children

The regional premier of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, has done a U-turn on the controversial meals provided to children from vulnerable families. In the Madrid region, 11,500 children from families on a subsistence income (RMI) are offered subsidized school meals. But when schools in the region closed on March 11, the regional government decided to break its contract with the catering companies that provided meals at school cafeterias, and instead reached agreements with the Telepizza, Rodilla and Viena Capellanes chains, which sell fast-food, sandwiches and other snacks, and baked goods, respectively.

Ayuso initially defended the move, arguing that an alternative could not be found until the beginning of the next school year in September. But it was revealed on Thursday by Spanish radio network Cope that children will stop receiving the fast-food meals on Friday, May 15 and receive a healthier alternative, which will be announced next week. Telepizza confirmed on Thursday that the Madrid regional government had cancelled the contract, and explained that it had signed on to the initiative out of a sense of “responsibility,” given that the price of the meals did not cover the company’s expenses.

Large companies begin testing staff

Some large businesses in Spain have begun testing all their staff members for Covid-19, despite recommendations from the Health Ministry that only people showing coronavirus symptoms, health professionals and essential workers be tested for the disease.

These tests are being carried out in private laboratories that charge €50 for a serological test and €120 for a PCR test, which is the most reliable and can detect asymptomatic infections. The companies that have taken this initiative include car manufacturer Seat, which has done 5,800 PCR tests on its workers; utilities company Iberdrola, which plans to do PCR and serological tests on all staff before they return to the workplace; and utilities company Endesa, which has opted for antibody tests.

“Businesses are terrified about reopening and that an employee who is asymptomatic or has mild symptoms will infect the rest of their colleagues, and they will have to send everyone home in preventive isolation,” said Luis Reinoso, the president of the Spanish Association of Specialists in Occupational Medicine (AEEMT).

With reporting by Berta Ferrero, Fernando Peinado, Elena G. Sevillano, Anabel Díez and Javier Casqueiro.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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