The death toll in Spain soared to over 4,800 Friday after 769 people died in 24 hours, in what was a record one-day figure for fatalities.
Spain has the world’s second-highest coronavirus death toll after Italy, and has so far suffered 4,858 deaths, while the number of cases jumped to 64,059.
Although Spain’s latest figures showed a daily increase of nearly 8,000 new infections, the uptick comes as the country moves to dramatically increase its rate of testing, ordering millions of kits from around the world.
Despite the increase, the rate of new infections appears to be slowing, registering a 14 percent rise compared with 18 percent on Thursday.
Fernando Simon, the health ministry’s emergencies coordinator described the figure as “promising” saying it showed that the flattening trend of the curve “was ongoing”.
“There is a clear stabilisation,” he said, with the figures indicating “that, little-by-little, we’re reaching the peak”.
But despite the positive indications, Simon said there would be no immediate easing of the situation at hospitals, warning: “This pressure on the care system will continue and could even increase in the coming three, four or five days.”
– Medical staff cases surge –
Spain went into lockdown on March 14 with the measures set to stay in place until at least April 11, but the numbers have continued to grow, with a worrying rise in cases among healthcare personnel.
By Friday, 9,444 medical staff were infected, up from 5,400 on Tuesday.
In order to increase its human resources, Spain has recruited 50,000 medical students and retired doctors and nurses, and on Friday said it had also taken on 200 foreign medical professionals living in Spain.
The surge in numbers has also brought the medical system to the brink of collapse, with Spain inking a major supply deal with China to source material to increase its capacity for testing, treatment and the protection of frontline workers.
Madrid has also requested NATO help in securing supplies to help curb the spread of the virus, and on Friday received a first response from the Czech Republic which said it would send over 10,000 protective suits.
– ‘EU’s future at stake’ –
Spain has ramped up the rhetoric over the economic impact of the crisis, both at home and abroad.
On Friday, the labour ministry banned employers from laying-off staff or ending fixed-term contracts.
And Spain also fired a warning shot over European bows, urging its fellow member states to pull together to fight the epidemic.
“This crisis will not be solved if each country choses to act alone,” warned Finance Minister Maria Jesus Montero, saying such an approach was what had “sown the seeds of disaffection” during the financial crisis of 2008 and the recession that followed.
The economic collapse caused by the epidemic has revived a bitter spat that erupted between the EU’s richer and poorer members during the eurozone debt crisis of 2010-2012, when its hard-hit southern members were seeking an act of European solidarity that was snubbed by the north.
This time round, Italy and Spain, two of the world’s worst-hit countries, are pushing for a historic act of financial solidarity that would allow eurozone members to pool their debts and issue so-called coronabonds in a move backed by France.
But northern countries, led by Germany and the Netherlands, are refusing to budge, with Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warning the very future of the European project was at stake.
“We must choose between a coordinated EU that demonstrates solidarity, or one which focuses on individualism,” he tweeted.
“The EU must learn the lessons of the past and not fail its citizens again. The European response must be one of solidarity, with a focus on the most vulnerable.”