Spain will be the first EU nation to reach 1 million Covid-19 cases

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Spain has become the first EU nation to surpass a million coronavirus infections, official data showed on Wednesday. The Mediterranean country doubled its figure in just six weeks despite the government’s new restrictions on public life to slow the spread of the disease.

The country registered 16,973 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the last 24 hours, the Ministry of Health announced on Wednesday, taking the total amount to 1,005,295 since its first case was diagnosed on 31 January on the remote island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands. .

Of that number, 34,366 people have died after 156 more deaths were recorded in the previous 24 hours.

After slowing to a sustained one in the wake of Spain’s severe shutdown from March to June, the rate of infection rose to often exceed 10,000 cases a day from the end of August, hitting a new peak of more than 16,000 last week.

Hasty exit exit

A hasty exit from confinement before tracking systems were in place allowed transmission to get out of hand faster than in other countries, said Dr. Rafael Bengoa, co-founder of Bilbao’s Institute of Health and Strategy.

Spain, home to about 47 million people, is only the sixth country in the world to cross this grim milestone after the United States, India, Brazil, Russia and Argentina, according to an AFP statement based on official figures.

The new wave of infections has been less fatal than at the end of March and April and the height of the health crisis, where deaths routinely exceeded 800 per. Day when the median age of new infections has dropped.

But with health workers warning that the rise could again overwhelm hospitals, Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Tuesday that the government is considering several new measures, including curfews at night such as those recently introduced in France and Belgium.

“We are facing very tough weeks ahead, winter is coming, the second wave is no longer a threat, it is a reality across Europe,” he told a news conference, adding that the government was “open to everything” to contain viruses.

‘Political weapon’

The Ministry of Health will meet on Thursday with representatives of Spain’s powerful regional governments in charge of health care to update the country’s plan to respond to the pandemic.

Spain was one of the hardest hit countries when the coronavirus hit Europe early this year before one of the world’s toughest lockdowns helped reduce the spread of the outbreak.

But infections have risen since lockdown measures were completely removed in late June, with the increase blamed for the fast-paced nightlife and the lack of an effective system for tracking and tracing infections.

Cluttered disagreements between central and regional governments and between political parties have also hampered the response, experts say. “The pandemic has been used as a political weapon to fight and debate with your opponents instead of trying to find a middle ground and the best solution for everyone,” Salvador Macip, a health science expert at Catalonia’s Open University, wrote. a book called “The Great Modern Plagues,” told AFP.

Fresh restrictions in Madrid, Catalonia, La Rioja and Navarre

As infections have increased, the Spanish regional authorities began to impose new restrictions.

While daily deaths have hovered around 100 – far from the top of nearly 900 registered at the end of March – nationwide hospital admissions have jumped by 20 percent in two weeks and 70 percent in the northeastern region of Catalonia. It may force some hospitals in Barcelona to suspend non-urgent procedures

Madrid and several satellite cities have been under partial lock-in since the beginning of October, while Catalonia has introduced a 15-day closure of all bars and restaurants.

The small wine-producing region of La Rioja joined the nearby Navarre by announcing a carpet ban on all non-essential travel to and from the area.

Angela Hernandez Puente, a doctor and deputy secretary of the Madrid Amtys Medical Association, said the situation was very worrying but not comparable to the overwhelming pressure the health system came under in March when the intensive care units were full and staff lacked personal protective equipment.

‘Tired and angry healthcare professionals’

But she said the gains from Spain’s hard lockdown were wasted due to a lack of preparation for another wave of infections, citing as an example the lack of hiring more doctors for public primary care centers, the first line of defense against the virus they deal with testing and tracking of potential cases as well as treatment of patients.

“It’s like they thought that when infections subsided over the summer, ‘That’s what it’s over,’ when in fact it was time to prepare,” Hernandez Puente told AFP.

“Healthcare professionals are tired and angry, many doctors feel that more should have been done in June, July and August so as not to overload the public health system as it is now,” she added.

( Jowharwith AFP & REUTERS)