Spain is on Day 11 of a 15-day nationwide lockdown which is likely to be extended to 30 days.
Spain’s coronavirus death toll surpassed Wednesday that of China, where the disease originated, as the country struggles to cope with an accelerating health crisis.
With 3,445 deaths, Spain now has the second-highest number of deaths globally after Italy’s 7,503. The country has reported over 47,000 cases, with Madrid and the semi-autonomous region of Catalonia becoming the hotspots of the virus.
“There has been a 20 percent increase in cases, equivalent to what we have seen in the last few days and lower than last week. These increases vary in the different autonomous communities,” Health Emergency Chief Fernando Simon told a news conference, adding that Spain was nearing the peak of the epidemic.
Broad avenues in Madrid and Barcelona were virtually deserted, as were towns and villages across Spain, as the country is on Day 11 of a 15-day nationwide lockdown which is likely to be extended to 30 days.
Schools, bars, restaurants, and most shops are shuttered. Social gatherings are banned. People are confined to their homes. “We have achieved a near-total reduction in social contact,” Simon added.
Authorities began to carry out mass testing for public workers in a requisitioned fairground in Madrid, one of the worst-hit regions. Nursing homes across the country have been overwhelmed by cases and a skating rink in Madrid has been turned into a makeshift morgue.
Health professionals have taken lawsuits against the government, complaining of the lack of basic protective equipment like masks, scrubs, and gloves. The medical staff account for more than 12 percent of cases with 5,400 infected.
Meanwhile, authorities have reported that sick patients are leaving the hospitals without been discharged, placing themselves and others at risk.
The Spanish army has asked NATO for ventilators, protective gear, and testing kits, Armed Forces Chief Miguel Villarroya said on Wednesday.
The government had ordered 432 million euros (US$467 million) worth of masks, gloves, testing kits, and ventilators to be delivered over the next eight weeks, with the first large batch expected this week, Health Minister Salvador Illa informed.