Spain reports more than 20,000 coronavirus deaths
Healthcare workers attend to COVID-19 coronavirus patients at the Intensive Unit Care of the CEMTRO private clinic in Madrid. AFP
The death toll from the coronavirus in Spain, the country hit hardest by the pandemic after the United States and Italy, exceeded 20,000 on Saturday, the health ministry said.
A total of 20,043 people have now succumbed to the disease, which killed 565 people in Spain in the past 24 hours, slightly down on the 585 reported on Friday. The number of declared cases has risen to 191,726, the ministry said. However, the increase in infections has slowed in recent days while the number deemed cured has risen to nearly 75,000.
Health officials say Spain has passed the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak which killed up to 950 people on April 2, and pressure has eased on hospitals. But the toll, which covers only people who tested positive for the virus, is increasingly contested in some regions.
Officials there say thousands more people have died after showing symptoms of the disease without having been tested because there are not enough tests. For example, Catalonia has reported that more than 7,800 people have died while the national toll for the region referred Saturday to more than 3,800.
Since March 14, Spain has been under a strict lockdown that was extended until April 25 and is likely to run longer, though possibly with some measures lightened. Spanish health official Fernando Simon told a daily press briefing Saturday: "Restrictions must be prolonged," while adding that "they could be adapted" according to the situation.
The government has suggested however that certain economic sectors might not rebound before the end of the year, with crucial tourism the biggest question mark at the moment. Madrid Mayor Jose Luis Martinez-Almeida told radio Onda Cero Saturday that no "mass gatherings" such as concerts or sports events would be held in Spain this summer.