Spanish coronavirus cases overtake China

Spanish coronavirus cases overtake China
Healthcare workers wearing protective face masks push a patient in a wheelchair at the emergency unit at 12 de Octubre Hospital in Madrid, Spain March 30. (Reuters)
MADRID/ WASHINGTON /BEIJING, MAR 30 (AGENCIES) | Publish Date: 3/30/2020 9:57:22 AM IST

Spain overtook China’s total number of coronavirus cases on Monday but business leaders and regional authorities criticized the government’s decision to further restrict the movement of people and keep non-essential workers at home until mid-April.

An overnight death toll of 812 people brought total fatalities in Spain to 7,340, while the number of infections rose by 8% to 85,195 on Monday, against 81,470 in China, where the disease originated at the end of 2019. 

Health emergency chief Fernando Simon, who has been holding daily briefings on the epidemic, has tested positive for the virus, his deputy said.

Maria Jose Sierra, who replaced Simon, said the daily infection increase had slowed since the introduction of lockdown measures to 12% on average since March 25 from around 20% in the March 15-25 period.

As Spain awoke to its third week of a nationwide lockdown - the strictest yet - flags flew at half-mast in the capital and the surrounding region, which has been the epicenter of the epidemic.

The government said it was imposing caps on funeral prices, following reports that undertakers were taking advantage of increased demand.

The first batch of medical supplies requested by Spain from NATO’s disaster coordination center arrived from the Czech Republic by plane on Sunday evening.

After the government announced on Saturday that all non-essential workers should stay home for two weeks, Antonio Garamendi, president of Spain’s business association, said the lockdown could lead to a full-blown social crisis and criticized the delay in clarifying which sectors were “essential”. “If you stop the country, we’ll have a huge social problem within five months,” he said in a television interview.

The government gave businesses an extra 24 hours to wind down operations, with full closure of non-essential activity to start on Tuesday.  “We have always maintained that the aim was to try to balance fighting against the virus’s propagation with upholding the basis of our economic system,” Transport Minister Jose Luis Abalos said on national television.

The European Central Bank’s Spanish vice-president, Luis de Guindos, said in a radio interview that the stricter lockdown would exact an economic toll, but if Spain managed to prevent the closure of many companies, they could recover when normality returns.

China reports 4 deaths, 31 new cases: China has reported 31 new cases of coronavirus including 30 imported ones while the death toll reached 3,304 with four more fatalities, health officials said on Monday.

The country’s National Health Commission (NHC) in its daily report said 31 new confirmed COVID-19 cases on the Chinese mainland were reported on Sunday, of which 30 were imported, taking their total number to 723.

A new domestic case was reported in Gansu province, it said. The four deaths were reported from the virus epicentre Hubei province, it said.

Peak US death rate likely in 2 weeks: Trump

Some one lakh people in the US may die from the coronavirus pandemic and the peak death rate was likely to hit the country in two weeks, President Donald Trump has warned, citing his health experts as he extended the “social distancing” guidelines until April 30.

His statement came as the death toll in New York State, America’s epicentre of COVID-19, crossed the 1,000 mark, with Governor Andrew Cuomo warning that thousands of people may die before the crisis ends. The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the US stood at 143,025 and 2,509 people have died in the country, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Assuring his countrymen that he expects the US to be on its way to recovery by June 1, Trump told reporters at a televised White House news conference that he had to extend the social distancing measures till April 30, based on the advice from his two top public health advisors and members of the White House Task Force on Coronavirus: Dr Deborah Bix and Dr Anthony Fauci.

“I want the American people to know that your selfless inspiring and valiant efforts are saving countless lives. You are making a difference. The modeling estimates that the peak and death rate is likely to hit in two weeks,” Trump said during his second Rose Garden press conference on the coronavirus outbreak.

Trump predicted his decision would save hundreds of thousands of lives, in an apparent moving of the political goalposts to account for the fast worsening US pandemic.

“2.2 million people would have died if we didn’t do what we are doing,” the President said. “If we can hold that number down ... to 100,000, it’s a horrible number, maybe even less ... we all, all together have done a very good job,” Trump said.

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