COVID-19: Spain Reopens Border With France

Cars cross the French-Spanish border at La Jonquera on June 21, 2020. Traffic flowed again across Spain’s border with France as the last of the strict Spanish coronavirus restrictions introduced in March were eased. Josep LAGO / AFP


Spain reopened its borders with France on Sunday, getting rid of one of the most potent symbols of Europe’s battle against the coronavirus, as infections in Latin America surged past two million. 

Europeans are just emerging from some of the world’s toughest lockdowns, with cars trickling across the reopened Spain-France border early on Sunday a day after Italy enjoyed its first top-flight football match in 103 days.

In the United States, which has also been taking stuttering steps to reopen even as 20 states have reported a rebound in infections, President Donald Trump held his first rally in months on Saturday.

He boasted to the audience in Tulsa, Oklahoma, that he had told his team to slow the rate of testing to reduce the number of registered cases.

“When you do testing to that extent, you are going to find more people, you will find more cases,” he said, even as six members of his advance team tested positive for COVID-19.

He faces re-election as the US deals with a tanking economy and the world’s worst virus outbreak, with almost 120,000 deaths out of more than 2.2 million cases.

Brazil is the second worst-affected country with almost 50,000 deaths and more than one million cases, helping to push Latin America’s total infections beyond the two million mark, according to an AFP tally early on Sunday.

The virus has now killed more than 460,000 people and infected almost nine million worldwide.

 ‘On our guard’ 

Although the spread has slowed in Europe, the continent is still the worst-affected with more than 2.5 million cases.

Spain has been among Europe’s hardest hit nations, but on Sunday it lifted a slew of restrictions in a bid to get its tourism industry back up and running.

As well as opening its border with France, officials confirmed that EU nationals, those from the passport-free Schengen zone and Britons would not have to quarantine.

“We must remain on our guard and strictly follow hygiene and protection measures,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday, highlighting that the danger has not passed.

In France, millions of children were preparing to return to school on Monday after three months away.

Cinemas and other cultural institutions were also getting set for reopening.

Concert halls and other institutions in Germany, however, have had to slash their events calendars and drastically reduce capacities.

Musicians such as Cristina Gomez Godoy, a member of Berlin’s Staatskapelle orchestra, have taken to playing in highly unusual settings.

“It is a pleasure for us as musicians to play together again, despite the smaller format, and I think the audience will enjoy it too,” she told AFP as she tuned up for a concert with four colleagues in the courtyard of an apartment building in Berlin.

‘Like zoo animals’ 

Thousands of miles away on the fringes of Eastern Europe, cases have spiked again in Azerbaijan, forcing the government to institute another lockdown — much to the irritation of local workers.

“The government again cages us in like zoo animals and gives not a damn to the consequences,” taxi driver Shahin Mamedkuliyev told AFP.

Clusters have also emerged in Morocco, which is opening a field hospital on Sunday capable of handling 700 patients, and in Beijing.

Local authorities in the Chinese capital have set up more than 2,000 testing sites across the city that had obtained 2.3 million samples, according to state news media.

The Palestinian Authority announced on Saturday it was temporarily closing the cities of Hebron and Nablus in the occupied West Bank after a sharp rise in infections.

Only goods will be allowed in, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh told journalists. Authorities have reported a total of 687 cases in the West Bank, including two deaths so far.

A vaccine remains months off at best despite several trials. Scientists are still learning more about the virus, its symptoms and the extent to which it may have spread before being identified.


EU, WHO Leaders To join Spain Victims’ Memorial On July 16

File: Healthcare workers prepare to move a COVID-19 coronavirus patient at the Intensive Unit Care of the Povisa Hospital in Vigo, northwestern Spain, on April 16, 2020. MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP


Spain will formally honour its coronavirus victims on July 16 with a ceremony that will be attended by top EU and World Health Organization figures, the prime minister said Wednesday.

“There will be a state ceremony on July 16 to honour our 27,000 fellow countrymen who lost their lives that will also pay homage to those public servants who have been fighting on the front line against the pandemic,” Pedro Sanchez told parliament.

Spain’s King Felipe VI will preside over the event which will be attended by EU Council chief Charles Michel, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, European Parliament leader David Sassoli, top EU diplomat Josep Borrell and World Health Organization head Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Spain suffered a particularly deadly outbreak of the virus which infected more than 244,000 people, with its figure of 27,136 dead making it the sixth worst-hit country in the world.

On May 27, Spain started a 10-day mourning period for the victims of the epidemic, the longest ever decreed since the country returned to democracy with the fall of the Franco dictatorship in 1975.


Spain To Reopen Borders With France, Portugal On June 22

A passenger wearing a face mask and gloves as a preventive measure pushes a trolley at the Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suarez Airport in Barajas on March 20, 2020. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP.


Spain will reopen its land borders with France and Portugal on June 22, three months after they were closed to slow the spread of the coronavirus, its tourism minister said Thursday.

“In the case of France and Portugal, I want to confirm that from June 22, the restrictions on mobility will be lifted,” Reyes Maroto said a foreign press briefing.

She added that “in principle”, the compulsory 14-day quarantine requirement “will also be dropped” for cross-border arrivals.

“This is very important because it will allow us to welcome back both French and Portuguese tourists,” the minister noted.

Spain closed its borders with France and Portugal on March 17, three days after imposing a nationwide lockdown to battle the virus which has infected more than 240,000 people and killed over 27,000.

Since May 15, almost all international arrivals have had to self-isolate for two weeks to prevent a resurgence of the epidemic.

That measure is to remain in place until July 1 for people flying in or arriving by boat.

“Right now, given the improvement in the epidemic in Spain, there is a debate underway about whether we could bring forward the date for lifting this quarantine requirement,” she said.

READ ALSO: Armenia Hospitals Overwhelmed As COVID-19 Cases Surge

“If the conditions are right to lift the requirement before July 1, we will.”

The announcement came a day after Spanish lawmakers voted to extend the state of emergency a final time to June 21.

It was the sixth time the measure has been renewed, although with the epidemic well in hand, associated restrictions have been significantly eased over time.

Maroto said 6,000 German tourists would be able to travel to Spain’s Balearic Islands “in the second half of June” within the context of a pilot project between the archipelago’s regional government and the German tour operator TUI.


La Liga’s New Reality To Bring Optimism, Discomfort

File: La Liga logo


La Liga president Javier Tebas said Spanish football’s return will allow people to feel a sense of normality again but it may also serve as a reminder of an uncomfortable new reality.

Spain’s top division is set to restart on June 11 and to be completed on July 19, yet the expectation is players will be subjected to safety protocol for several months and stadiums will not be full again until next year.

In the short-term at least, its reemergence could offer some comfort. “There is no doubt the resumption of football will contribute to a general sense of relief among certain groups of people, who have been struggling with the pandemic,” David Moscoso, a specialist in sports sociology, told AFP.

“The return of football is a sign that society is progressing to the new normal,” agreed Tebas earlier this month, adding “it will restore a part of life that people in Spain know and love.”

Spain has managed to bring the number of infections under control in recent weeks, with the government reporting no deaths from coronavirus on Monday for the first time since the beginning of March.

But with more than 27,000 confirmed fatalities, the country has been one of the worst-hit in the world and it is no surprise the approach to football’s return has been cautious and the attitude of some fearful.

READ ALSO: WHO Warns Of Pressure On Latin American Health Systems

“It is possible that by losing the passion and intensity, which is really the essence of football, it will also lose that emotional centre that is the hook for so many people,” said psychologist Adelaida Navaridas.

Many are adamant that, without fans, the campaign should not resume at all.

“We understand we cannot go to the stadium due to the risk of infection,” said Joseba Combarro, president of the Eskozia La Brava, the most significant supporters’ club at Eibar, whose squad members have expressed reservations about playing too soon.

“But the players share the same risk as the fans, the risk is for everyone. The league should be suspended.”

– ‘Social heart’ –

It is not only the atmosphere inside stadiums that will be lost.

“The social heart of football comes from people getting ready for the game with friends, with family, and then staying together afterwards. All that is broken,” adds Guillermo Fouce, a professor of psychology at Madrid’s Complutense University.

“But between having it back at 100 per cent or nothing at all is something in between that helps us to adapt. I think it’s still better to move closer to what was normal before.”

La Liga have been eager to point to the economic benefits too, for people’s jobs and livelihoods.

“Football’s return means the revival of a very relevant economic sector,” said Tebas.

“It contributes 1.37 per cent of GDP and generates 185,000 jobs at a time when the economic situation is already the main concern.”

“It is the primary service export industry in our country,” adds Moscoso. “It’s economic role is self-evident.”

Television companies like Movistar, the biggest broadcaster of games in Spain, have also been promoting the idea that football’s revival amounts to progress.

Every Sunday night this month, Movistar has hosted a programme called “Volver Es Ganar”, “To Return is To Win”, a slogan that has also been carried by players and clubs alike.

First and foremost, the game is coming back because of its own financial needs, with Tebas admitting clubs stood to lose around 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion) if the season was cancelled.

Fans will have football again but, for a while at least, in a very different way to before.

“Perhaps we have to consider that our new normal is going to be different,” Fouce said. “That nothing is going to be exactly the same as before.”


La Liga Can Resume From June 8 – Spanish Prime Minister

Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez gives a speech during a parliamentary plenary session at the Lower Chamber of Spanish Parliament, in Madrid, on May 20, 2020. Andres BALLESTEROS / POOL / AFP
Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sanchez gives a speech during a parliamentary plenary session at the Lower Chamber of Spanish Parliament, in Madrid, on May 20, 2020. Andres BALLESTEROS / POOL / AFP


Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Saturday that La Liga can resume from its coronavirus lockdown on the week of June 8.

“The resumption of major professional sporting competitions and in particular La Liga will be allowed from the week of June 8,” Sanchez told a press conference.

More than two months after the COVID-19 pandemic halted the season in Spain, players have begun training in small groups as they aim to be as ready as possible for the planned reboot next month.

Spain Unveils 14-day Quarantine For Arrivals

A passenger wearing a face mask and gloves as a preventive measure pushes a trolley at the Madrid-Barajas Adolfo Suarez Airport in Barajas on March 20, 2020. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP.


People arriving in Spain will face a mandatory 14-day quarantine to slow the spread of the coronavirus, the government announced on Tuesday.

The measure comes into effect on Friday and will remain in force until May 24 when the state of emergency expires — or beyond if the measure is extended, it said.

“This measure is considered proportionate to the gravity of the situation and in line with the controls reestablished along internal borders by a large number of member states of the European Union,” the order said.

“The favourable evolution of the epidemic in our country and the start of the rollback make it necessary to reinforce measures of control,” it said.

“Given the global distribution of the virus and working from the principle of precaution, it is necessary that anyone coming from abroad observe a 14-day quarantine period.”

During that time, they would only be allowed out to buy essentials or for urgent medical treatment and always wearing a mask.

READ ALSO: Virus Hope In US As WHO Hails Global Progress

The measure will not apply to cross-border workers, those transporting goods, airline staff and medical personnel arriving in Spain as long as they have not been in contact with anyone infected by the virus.

During the two-week period, the health care authorities “could make contact to ensure the quarantine is being followed”, it warned.

Spain, one of the countries worst-hit by the virus which has so far claimed nearly 27,000 lives, closed its land border when the state of emergency was declared in mid-March.


Spain Lawmakers Extend COVID-19 State Of Emergency

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (C) delivers a speech during a session to debate the extension of a national lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus at the Lower Chamber of the Spanish parliament in Madrid on May 6, 2020. J. J. GUILLEN / POOL / AFP
Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez (C) delivers a speech during a session to debate the extension of a national lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus at the Lower Chamber of the Spanish parliament in Madrid on May 6, 2020. J. J. GUILLEN / POOL / AFP


Spain’s parliament on Wednesday voted to extend the country’s state of emergency, allowing stringent coronavirus lockdown measures to remain in place for at least two more weeks.

The government imposed a nation-wide lockdown nearly eight weeks ago to curb the outbreak, which has killed more than 25,000 people and infected over 220,000 in the country — one of the hardest hit in the world.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez warned that abruptly ending the strict lockdown would be “unforgivable”, ahead of a parliamentary vote Wednesday to further extend the state of emergency.

“Ignoring the risk posed by the epidemic and lifting the state of emergency very quickly would be absolutely wrong, a total, unforgivable error,” he said.

Despite efforts by his right-wing opponents to block the move, parliament approved the extension by 178 votes in favour to 75 votes against, with 97 abstentions.

It was the fourth time the measure had been approved, meaning the restrictions will now remain in place until May 23 as Spain slowly moves through a staged rollback of the lockdown.

A state of emergency was first declared on March 14 in Spain, allowing the government to roll out confinement measures for its nearly 47 million citizens.

The country has only recently started ease some restrictions, allowing children outdoors and adults to leave the house to exercise.

Some small businesses have also been permitted to receive customers with a prior appointment.

“We have limited freedom of movement and the freedom to gather, that is certain. But we’ve done it to save lives,” Sanchez said.

He insisted it was “the only way to guarantee a gradual and prudent transition” out of the lockdown.

The latest daily toll on Wednesday showed a slight increase in deaths, rising to 244 after three days when it stayed below 200 — a far cry from the 950 deaths of April 2 when the epidemic peaked.

“We are progressing very well,” said Fernando Simon, head of the health ministry’s emergencies department.

“It would be very sad if through leaving the lockdown faster than recommended we lost everything we’ve worked for.”

Earlier this week, Spain’s main opposition Popular Party said it would not support any extension of the state of emergency.

But thanks to backing from the centre-right Ciudadanos and the Basque PNV, the government got enough support to push through the measure.

Last week, the government unveiled plans for a four-phase transition out of the lockdown that is to be completed by the end of June, with the country already engaged in the first preparatory stage.



Spain Adds 280,000 Jobless During April Lockdown – Govt

People exercise in Seville on May 2, 2020, during the hours allowed by the government to go out and exercise, for the first time since the beginning of a national lockdown to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP.


Spain’s jobless figure rose by more than 282,000 in April, largely due to the collapse of tourism during the coronavirus lockdown, labour ministry figures showed on Tuesday.

The numbers followed a “historic” increase in March when the government counted more than 300,000 new job seekers.

The total number of unemployed in the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy has now reached 3.8 million, the ministry said.

At the end of March, the National Statistics Institute (INE), which calculates figures in a different way, gave Spain’s jobless figure as 3.31 million

Spain imposed a nationwide lockdown on March 14 which has largely paralysed its economy, sending the number of job seekers spiralling.

Ministry figures show the number of state handouts rose to “record levels” with nearly 5.2 million claimants in what was an increase of nearly 137 percent.

That number includes those who have been furloughed.

The blow was particularly felt in the services sector and among workers with temporary contracts as a result of the devastating loss of visitors over the Easter period, when the tourism industry usually moves into high gear.

READ ALSO: Austria COVID-19 Under Control Despite Lockdown Easing

During April, the services sector in which tourism plays a vital role, registered 219,128 job losses.

Spain is the second-most popular tourist destination in the world after France.

The employment numbers began climbing after the lockdown was imposed to slow the spread of a virus which has now claimed more than 25,000 lives, making Spain one of the worst-hit countries in the world.

In the first quarter, Spain’s unemployment rate jumped to 14.4 percent, figures from the National Statistics Institute (INE) showed last week.


COVID-19: Masks Mandatory On Spain Public Transport As Easing Begins

Commuters wearing face masks sit on a train at the Atocha Station in Madrid on April 13, 2020 as some companies were set to resume operations at the end of a two-weeks halt of all non-essential activity amid a national lockdown to stop the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. JAVIER SORIANO / AFP.


Masks became mandatory on public transport Monday as Spain took its first tentative steps towards a commercial reopening with small businesses accepting customers by appointment and restaurants prepping food for takeaway.

Spain’s population of nearly 47 million have been confined to their homes for more than 50 days as the country sought to curb the spread of the deadly virus which has so far claimed 25,428 lives according to official figures.

But the daily death rate has been steadily falling, with the country on Monday counting another 164 deaths in 24 hours, an identical number to Sunday which was the lowest figure in nearly seven weeks.

And on Monday, the number of new cases fell to 545, the lowest figure since the country shut down on March 14 to slow the spread of the deadly virus.

Health chiefs believe the epidemic peaked on April 2 when 950 people died in one 24-hour period.

Spain began transitioning out of its strict virus lockdown on April 26 when it allowed children outside for an hour a day with the measure extended this weekend to adults who can now go out for a brief walk or exercise alone.

READ ALSO: Germany Warns Coronavirus Vaccine Could Take ‘Years’

The government has said the restrictions will be gradually lifted in a four-phase process which will be completed by the end of June, with the country already engaged in the first preparatory stage.

On Monday, new rules went into effect on public transport, with police and civil protection officers handing out millions of masks at stations across the country to ensure commuters complied with the now-compulsory requirement.

“We remind you that it is obligatory to wear a mask, whether travelling on a train or anywhere inside the transport system,” said a message over the loudspeakers at Sol station in central Madrid, which serves the metro and interurban trains.

“Until today I hadn’t seen people wearing masks but now I can,” said Cristina Jimenez, 31, who works in a currency exchange outlet and has been working throughout the lockdown.

On Monday, easing measures went into effect for some small businesses with premises no larger than 400 square metres (4,300 square foot) which can now receive customers with a reservation.

“Today it’s a bit chaotic with all the clients phoning for an appointment and trying to fit them all in,” said Conchi Navarro, a 56-year-old hairdresser wearing a mask who has just opened her Barcelona salon.

Restaurants will also benefit from the changes. Until now, they have been allowed to prepare food for delivery, but from Monday they can also offer meals that customers can come and collect in person.

Spain is currently in the so-called preparatory phase zero and will enter stage one on May 11 when it will allow gatherings of up to 10 people within strict social distancing guidelines and the limited opening of bar terraces and street cafes.


COVID-19: Spain Eases Strict Lockdown

People exercise in Seville on May 2, 2020, during the hours allowed by the government to go out and exercise, for the first time since the beginning of a national lockdown to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 disease. CRISTINA QUICLER / AFP


Spaniards were allowed out of their homes to exercise and walk freely after 48 days of confinement on Saturday as some European nations began cautiously easing virus lockdowns while others like Russia faced a spike in new infections.

As governments across the globe balance lifting restrictions to restart economies against the risk of new infections, US authorities brought some hope by approving an experimental drug for emergency use on coronavirus patients.

The measure was the latest step in a global push to find viable treatments and a vaccine for the coronavirus, which has left half of humanity under some form of lockdown, hammered the world economy and caused more than 3.3 million confirmed infections.

The virus has killed nearly 239,000 people since it emerged in China late last year.

With signs the pandemic in their hardest-hit nations is slowing, European countries and some parts of the US have begun to lift restrictions and to try to inject life into economies battered by weeks of closure.

In Madrid and Barcelona, Spaniards took to the streets to exercise and walk freely as the government eased seven weeks of strict lockdown in a country with one of the highest number of fatalities at nearly 25,000.

“After so many weeks in confinement, I badly wanted to go out, run, see the world,” said financial advisor Marcos Abeytua in Madrid’s Chueca district who got up a 7 am to enjoy some time outside. “Yesterday, I was like a child on Christmas Eve.”

In the city’s Retiro park, many residents were out to running, sometimes in groups, as a policeman used a loudspeaker to urge them to keep out of deserted avenue and on the pavement.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, however, said masks would be obligatory on public transport from Monday.

Spain, Germany, Austria and Scandinavian nations are all slowly easing lockdowns as the virus cases slow though they will keep in place social distancing measures, demand the use of masks or increase testing to try to track infections.

France on Saturday decided it would extend a health emergency, in place since March 24, by two months until July 24, Health Minister Olivier Veran announced after a cabinet meeting.

Italy is preparing to ease restrictions in coming days while British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent time in intensive care with the virus, said Britain had past the peak of its outbreak.

Ireland extended its lockdown by two weeks to May 18, with Prime Minister Leo Varadkar saying the nation will reopen “in a slow, phased, staged way” after that.

In Russia, though, authorities reported the largest increase in coronavirus cases with the new infections rising by nearly 10,000 in a single day.

In Moscow, the epicentre of Russia’s outbreak, around two per cent of the population is infected by COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, officials said.

“The threat is apparently on the rise,” Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin, said on his blog earlier Saturday.

Treatment hopes

More than 3.3 million cases of infection have been officially diagnosed in 195 countries, including 1.5 million in Europe alone. That number is likely only a fraction of true cases as testing is still limited.

The United States has the most deaths with more than 65,000, followed by Italy with 28,236, the United Kingdom with 27,510, Spain with 25,100 deaths and France with 24,594 fatalities.

US President Donald Trump on Friday announced that Remdesivir, an antiviral drug initially developed to treat Ebola, was given the green light for use after a major trial found that it boosted recovery in serious COVID-19 patients.

“It’s really a very promising situation,” Trump said on Friday at the White House.

The drug incorporates itself into the virus’s genome, short-circuiting its replication process.

Its approval came as the US leaders struggled with growing pressure from citizens wearying of stay-at-home orders.

Trump is keen for a turnaround as the world’s largest economy reels with tens of millions left jobless.

Texas became the largest US state yet to ease curbs, while anti-lockdown demonstrations were held in several states — including California, where officials had re-closed beaches beginning Friday to avoid a repeat of last weekend when crowds flocked to the shoreline.

In Huntington Beach, about 35 miles (55 kilometres) south of Los Angeles, several thousand people rallied to denounce Governor Gavin Newsom’s beach shutdown order.

“Open California!” chanted protesters near the closed beaches, carrying signs that read “All jobs are essential” or “Freedom is essential”.

Hong Kong shops opening

In Asia, India announced that the lockdown on its 1.3 billion people — the world’s biggest — would continue for two more weeks from May 4.

And in Singapore, the government said Saturday that pet food stores and hair salons will be allowed to reopen on May 12.

Most of the city-state’s infections have been detected at dormitories housing migrant workers, and their confinement was extended to June 1.

Hong Kong recorded zero confirmed case of coronavirus on Saturday, the sixth day within a week.

The city’s social distancing regulations including limits on the gathering of more than four people are due to expire on May 7, but authorities have not decided whether to extend them.

The city’s chief executive has said that civil servants will return to work in the office starting from May 4.

During the long weekend with public holidays to celebrate Buddha’s birthday and Labour Day, residents flocked to country parks and the city’s outlying islands to get some fresh air.

Shops and restaurants started to resume business in normal opening hours with more consumers going out to streets and shopping malls.

The virus restrictions put a damper on May Day celebrations worldwide on Friday as many labour unions delayed their rallies and some held online events, while a determined few hit the streets in face masks.

May Day carried extra significance this year because of the staggering number of people put out of work by the pandemic, with the global economy in a tailspin and facing its worst downturn since the Great Depression.

Stock markets tumbled again on Friday after Trump’s unproven allegation that the virus may have come from a lab in Wuhan — the central Chinese city where the disease first emerged.


COVID-19: Spain Sees Sharp Drop In Daily Death Toll

Healthcare workers wearing face masks observe three-minutes of silence in memory of COVID-19 victims outside La Fe hospital in Valencia on April 19, 2020. – Spain registered a sharp drop in its daily death toll from the new coronavirus, with the number falling to 410 from 565. JOSE JORDAN / STR / AFP.


Spain registered a sharp drop in its daily death toll from the new coronavirus on Sunday, with the number falling to 410 from 565.

The total number of fatalities in Spain, the third hardest-hit country in the world after the US and Italy, has reached 20,453, the health ministry said.

“It’s a number that gives us hope,” said health ministry emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon of the daily death toll, at its lowest in four weeks.

“It’s the first time we are under 500 dead since the daily tolls began to climb.”

Infections rose to 195,344, with 4,218 new cases in the past 24 hours.

But Simon admitted the fall in the number of deaths from Saturday to Sunday can be explained by the lower registration of fatalities over the weekend. Such a drop is often followed by a rise at the start of the week.

READ ALSO: Brighton’s Amex Stadium To Become COVID-19 Testing Centre 

Spanish authorities believe the country reached the peak of the pandemic on April 2 when they had counted 950 deaths in 24 hours. But they are not ready to recommend a lifting of the nationwide lockdown, one of the tightest in Europe.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday announced he would ask parliament to extend the lockdown by two weeks to May 9.

The restrictions currently in place would, however, be loosened slightly to allow children time outside from April 27, Sanchez said.


Coronavirus Death Toll Hits 19,478 In Spain

Healthcare workers prepare to move a COVID-19 coronavirus patient at the Intensive Unit Care of the Povisa Hospital in Vigo, northwestern Spain, on April 16, 2020. MIGUEL RIOPA / AFP



Spain’s death toll increased to nearly 19,500, government figures showed on Friday. 

The country reported 585 new fatalities in the past 24 hours but said it had revised its counting mechanism, making the figures difficult to compare with previous tolls.

The total number of deaths in Spain now stands at 19,478, the third-highest in the world after the United States and Italy.

Overnight, the government issued revised guidelines for reporting deaths in order to homogenise data from the country’s 17 autonomous regions in an apparent move to eliminate any deaths where the patient had not been tested for COVID-19.

But such a methodology has proven controversial with Madrid and Catalonia, the two worst-hit regions, who this week insisted they had thousands more victims than the official count.

The national death toll on Friday was the highest daily figure since Sunday when 619 people died in 24 hours.

The data also revised down the number of people who had recovered from COVID-19, giving an overall total of 72,963.

But the number of cases did correlate with earlier figures, showing an increase of 5,252 new cases, bringing the overall total to 188,068.

“It must be recognised that that number of dead is much higher,” Ignacio Aguado, vice-president of Madrid’s regional government, told Spain’s RNE radio.

“We’re only talking about those who have died in hospital after testing positive, but people are also dying in old people’s residences and at home without having being tested, so we will never know the real number (of deaths) in this tragedy.”