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Montevideo, November 25th 2020 - 02:35 UTC

 

 

Spain becomes first Western Europe to exceed a million coronavirus infections

Thursday, October 22nd 2020 - 09:18 UTC
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Health ministry data showed total cases had reached 1,005,295, rising by 16,973 from the previous day. The death toll increased by 156 to 34,366 Health ministry data showed total cases had reached 1,005,295, rising by 16,973 from the previous day. The death toll increased by 156 to 34,366

Spain became the first Western European country to exceed 1 million coronavirus infections on Wednesday (Oct 21), doubling its tally in just six weeks despite a series of increasingly stringent measures to control the second wave.

Health ministry data showed total cases had reached 1,005,295, rising by 16,973 from the previous day. The death toll increased by 156 to 34,366. After slowing to a trickle in the wake of Spain's strict March to June lockdown, the infection rate accelerated to frequently exceed 10,000 cases a day from late August, and hit a new peak of more than 16,000 last week.

A hurried exit from confinement before tracing systems were in place let transmission get out of hand faster than in other countries, said Dr Rafael Bengoa, co-founder of Bilbao's Institute for Health and Strategy.

He also blamed Spain's deeply entrenched political polarization for the rise. “There's a lot of political noise but a shocking leadership vacuum,” he said.

As Spain's health ministry released the latest figures, most of its lawmakers were bitterly debating a motion of no confidence in Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez launched by the far-right Vox party.

“These politicians are only comfortable with the simplicity of short-term... ideologically motivated debates, but the virus doesn't care about ideology,” Bengoa said.

While daily deaths have been hovering around 100 - a far cry from the peak of nearly 900 registered in late March - nationwide hospital admissions have jumped 20% in two weeks and 70% in Catalonia.

That may potentially force some Barcelona hospitals to suspend non-urgent procedures. Desperate to avoid a repeat of the first wave, when the virus ravaged Spain's elderly population and brought the health service to its knees, several regions have toughened restrictions in the past weeks.

The tiny wine-producing region of La Rioja joined nearby Navarre in announcing a blanket ban for all non-essential travel to and from the area. The government is also contemplating curfews for the worst-hit areas, including Madrid, where a two-week state of emergency is due to expire on Saturday.

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