COVID-19: Spain crosses the threshold of one million cases

Spain became on Wednesday the first member of the European Union (and the 6th in the world) to cross the milestone of one million cases of the new coronavirus, with 1,005,295 cases, according to the daily report of the Ministry of Health.

• Read also: All developments in the COVID-19 pandemic

The country has recorded 16,973 cases and 156 deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing the total to 34,366 deaths from the coronavirus, as restrictions multiply to contain the second wave of the epidemic.

Spain, with a population of some 47 million, is the sixth country in the world to cross the one million case threshold, after the United States, India, Brazil, Russia, and Argentina, according to a census carried out by AFP from official sources.

The second wave of COVID-19 killed fewer people in Spain than the first in March and April, at the peak of the pandemic, when the country recorded more than 800 deaths per day. In addition, the average age of patients has fallen.

New measures in preparation

But as caregivers fear further saturation of hospitals, Health Minister Salvador Illa said on Tuesday that the government was considering new measures, including the imposition of a curfew, as has already done France, Belgium and Slovenia, as well as two regions in Italy.

“There are going to be very difficult weeks, winter is coming, the second wave is no longer a threat, it is a reality throughout Europe,” warned Mr. Illa, who added that the government was “Open to all proposals” to curb contagions.

Country among the most bereaved by the pandemic, Spain imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in the world in the spring to curb the spread of the virus.

But cases started to rise again this summer after the end of confinement in June. The return of nightlife and the lack of resources to identify, trace and isolate cases are the cause, according to many Spanish epidemiologists.

To these problems has been added a real standoff between the left-wing central government of Pedro Sanchez and certain regions, responsible for health, on the measures to be adopted. These disagreements have been particularly sharp in the Madrid region, the national epicenter of the epidemic, which is ruled by the right-wing opposition.

“The pandemic has been used as a political weapon to fight its adversaries instead of seeking a consensus and the best solution for everyone,” Salvador Macip, professor of health sciences at the Open University of France, told AFP. Catalonia.

Faced with the upsurge in cases, the Spanish authorities urgently had to impose new restrictions.

Thus, the capital, Madrid, and eight neighboring municipalities have been partially sealed off since the beginning of October: you can only enter and leave for essential reasons, essentially going to work, going to study or receiving treatment.

Similar measures have been decided in several dozen other cities, including Salamanca and Zaragoza, but also for entire regions, such as Navarre and since Wednesday Rioja (North), while the region of Cantabria (North West ) called on its inhabitants to “self-confine”.

For its part, Catalonia (North-East) has closed all its bars and restaurants since Thursday and for 15 days.

Near Madrid airport, an army of cranes are bustling about to emerge a “pandemic hospital” slated to open next month.

“Exhausted and angry”

For Angela Hernandez Puente, doctor and head of the Madrid Doctors Association Amtys, the situation is very worrying, but not comparable to the immense pressure exerted on the health system in March, when the intensive care units were short of beds and of materials.

However, she believes that the gains due to containment have been wasted.

“As the number of cases fell during the summer, it is as if they had thought that ‘this is it, it’s over’, when it was time to prepare” for the second wave, deplores she.

“The health workers are exhausted and angry,” she said, “because many doctors believe that more should have been done in June, July and August so that the public health system is not overwhelmed as it is. currently ”.

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