Spain second worst-hit country by coronavirus: Here’s how the nation is fighting
Spain has reported 3,434 deaths so far, overtaking China’s death toll from coronavirus. A skating rink in Madrid has been turned into a makeshift morgue as bodies pile up. The Spanish Army has asked NATO for ventilators, protective gear and testing kits.
Spain has become the second hardest-hit nation by the coronavirus pandemic, overtaking the official death toll in China, where the disease originated. The number of deaths in the European country rose by 738 in 24 hours -- a daily record -- to 3,434. By comparison, China has officially reported 3,287 deaths while Italy – the worst affected country – has recorded 6,820 fatalities.
WHAT IS HAPPENING IN SPAIN?
The rate of infection in Spain has risen by a fifth and nearly 27,000 people are being treated in hospital. Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo has tested positive, the government said in a statement. She is quarantined in a hospital and is making good progress.
Currently, Spain is under a countrywide lockdown, and top health official Fernando Simon predicted the nation had still not reached the crest of its outbreak. The number of cases will continue to rise in the coming days, he said. Earlier this week, he had suggested that the peak of the infections could come "in a matter of days." The country now has 47,610 confirmed cases.
Health workers -- who make about 14% of the country’s coronavirus victims -- are complaining about a lack of basic protective equipment. Nursing homes across Spain have been overwhelmed by cases and a skating rink in Madrid has been turned into a makeshift morgue as bodies pile up. Residents have been ordered to stay indoors apart from for essential trips, and normally busy streets are deserted.
Gen. Miguel Villarroya, chief of Spain's defense command, said that troops have disinfected about 500 of the nation's residential homes for seniors.
Madrid is the country's worst affected region but Catalonia in the north-east has seen a rapid increase in cases. The city’s municipal funeral home said it had stopped collecting victims of Covid-19.
Bodies of people who die of coronavirus are now transported by the country's emergency military unit to the Palacio de Hielo, or Ice Palace, in Madrid's Hortaleza neighbourhood, CNN cited the Madrid regional president's office.
Palacio de Hielo rink is normally a popular venue for children's birthday parties, as hearses and ambulances arrived at the building.
Broad avenues in Madrid and Barcelona have been virtually deserted, as were towns and villages across Spain, while fire engines and tractors are spraying disinfectant to clean streets.
Authorities have begun to carry out mass testing for public workers in a requisitioned fairground in Madrid.
Spanish medical staff, who themselves account for thousands of infected cases, have taken out lawsuits against the government, complaining of the lack of basic protective equipment like masks, scrubs and gloves.
SPAIN SEEKS MASKS, VENTILATORS
The Spanish Army has asked NATO for ventilators, protective gear and testing kits, Armed Forces Chief Miguel Villarroya said on Wednesday.
The government had ordered 432 million euros ($467 million) worth of masks, gloves, testing kits and ventilators to be delivered over the next eight weeks, with the first large batch expected this week, Health Minister Salvador Illa said.
In an example of how companies are changing assembly lines to produce medical products, a shoe factory in northern Spain has switched to making simple protective masks - first for its own personnel and then for distribution.
Spain is on Day 11 of a 15-day nationwide lockdown which is likely to be extended to 30 days. Schools, bars, restaurants and most shops are shuttered. Social gatherings are banned. People are confined to their homes.
"We have achieved a near total reduction in social contact," health emergency chief Fernando Simon told a news conference, adding that Spain was nearing the peak of the epidemic.
However, the infection rate is still soaring with the number of coronavirus cases increasing by a fifth in 24 hours to 47,610 on Wednesday.
Aside from the devastating health impact, the lockdown has dealt a punishing blow to the Spanish economy, with tens of thousands of workers temporarily laid off as sectors like retail, tourism and manufacturing grind to a halt.
At Malaga airport in southern Spain, a gateway to the Costa del Sol tourist region, thousands of travellers awaited flights home, many sleeping on seats or on the floor.
The Bank of Spain said on Wednesday that there had been severe disruption on the economy since early March and a sharp contraction in consumer spending.