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29th Feb 2024

Spain prays to reach peak of pandemic this week

  • Spain plans to extend its state of emergency for another 15 days (Photo: jonRo)

This week Spain hopes it may see the longed-for 'peak' of the epidemic - in which new cases are less than the day before - if the measures taken so far prove to be effective in the fight against the coronavirus.

However, the country registered on Monday (23 March) the deadliest day since the outbreak started, with 462 new fatalities in 24 hours - bringing the total to 33,089 cases of Covid-19 and 2,182 deaths.

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"This is going to be a difficult week when we can reach the peak of the epidemic, but this would not mean the problem is solved," warned the Spanish health minister, Salvador Illa.

Socialist prime minister Pedro Sánchez said on Sunday that the number of diagnosed cases would rise in the coming days "pushing capacities to the limit".

"The worst is yet to come," he added.

Likewise, Sánchez called on the EU to launch a "Marshall Plan" to counter the negative impact of the coronavirus in the bloc's economy and the idea of "coronabonds" - debt issues that would help to share out risk among member states.

"We need to coordinate a major Marshall Plan for the whole of the EU, and to begin the process of rebuilding that we are going to need to have in the social and economic areas when this is all over," Sánchez said in a national televised address.

Regional differences

Following the extension of the Italian lockdown, Sánchez announced on Sunday that the government wants to extend the state of emergency for another 15 days - a decision which will be put to a vote on Wednesday.

If approved, the lockdown will continue until April 11.

The leader of the conservative Popular Party (PP), Pablo Casado, said on Monday that his party would support the extension of the state of emergency - a position shared by most political parties.

However, Casado also backed the sealing off of different regions to fight coronavirus, after regional leaders made similar requests to Sanchez's government.

In fact, the coronavirus outbreak has not hit all regions equally. While the most-affected regions have thousands of cases, some regions have less than 400 cases.

"We think that such measures must be looked at, as any measure which helps contain the spread of the epidemic is a positive," said Casado during an online press conference.

"I prefer to be over-cautious. Anything that results in the protection of residents is a positive," he added.

Additionally, Spain closed on Monday all airports and seaports for 30 days, with certain exceptions.

Fears of a collapse

Meanwhile, Spanish health workers said the hospitals are already unable to cope with the number of patients of coronavirus.

In Madrid, where almost a third of the country's cases have been reported, dozens of coronavirus patients were moved on Sunday to a field hospital set up at a conference centre with 5,500 hospital beds for the seriously ill.

With about 1,800 people being treated in intensive care units, there is mounting concern about overcrowded hospitals in the most-affected regions - Madrid, Catalonia and the Basque country.

"If you only have one respirator, and you have to choose, we have to prioritise people with the greatest chance of survival. We haven't reached that point yet, but we could get there and it will be very painful," Gabriel Heras, a health worker in Madrid, told Spanish newspaper El País.

"The system is not going to be able to take in all the cases that are coming in," he added.

Additionally, the government announced on Sunday that about 640,000 testing kits will be distributed among the Spanish regions - with priority for health workers and risk groups, such as seniors living in residences and care homes.

Although the authorities said on Saturday that 350,000 tests had already been carried out in total -about 15,000 daily - the lack of testing in Spain has been criticised by epidemiologists and health workers since the beginning of the crisis.

Earlier this week, the government said it has commissioned six million more tests to extend the diagnosis capabilities of the country.

Likewise, Spain is taking part in the accelerated joint procurement procedures, which are being coordinated by the European Commission to ensure an adequate supply of protective equipment across member states.

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