10th April 2020
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Coronavirus in Spain full update (24 March)

Report updated in Spain at 20.30h on 24 March

Official figures released by the Spanish Health Ministry at 12 noon on Tuesday 24 March confirmed 39,673 known cases of Coronavirus (Covid-19) in Spain, 6,584 more than yesterday (up 20% in 24 hours). 2,696 people have died from the pandemic (up by 514 from yesterday – a 24% increase). There are 2,636 people in intensive care. 3,794 people have now made a full recovery.

Of the official figures announced, 12,352 confirmed cases are known to be in the Madrid region, and where 1,535 have died (from the total 2,696 across the country – 57% of the national figure). There are now 7,864 cases in Catalonia (282 deaths), 2,728 in the Basque Country (133 deaths), 2,471 in Andalusia (87), 2,465 in Castilla La Mancha (216) and 2,167 in Valencia (115).

Figures for those infected with Coronavirus in other regions are as follows: Aragón 758 (37 deaths), Asturias 662 (22 deaths), Balearic Islands 478 (10), Canary Islands 557 (16), Cantabria 425 (9), Castilla y León 2,460 (124), Extremadura 636 (26), Galicia 1,415 (20), Melilla 28 (0), Murcia 385 (3), Navarra 1,014 (31) and La Rioja 802 (30).

Coronavirus in Spain
Coronavirus in Spain figures released on 24 March.

CORONAVIRUS in SPAIN NEWS

Around 5,400 healthcare workers in Spain are now known to have tested positive for Coronavirus, according to Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Centre for Health Alerts – representing around 13% of the confirmed cases.

Simón also explained that in general, the symptoms of Coronavirus appeared between 5-6 days after infection, and those who suffer complications normally end up in hospital 5-7 days after the start of the symptoms.

Simón said that he believes the effects of the ‘tough measures’ that have been put in place to counter the crisis in Spain will be felt in the coming days: ‘I don’t know if it’ll be tomorrow or Friday – but their impact will be felt soon.’

He also justified the Spanish government’s decision to not impose a 100% lockdown, in particular in Madrid or Catalonia, arguing that the measures the authorities have put in place are already some of the world’s strictest.

ALSO READ: The new restrictions at Spain’s airports, ports and land borders

As figures in Spain continue to spiral, Madrid could now pass Lombardy as the worst affected region in Europe, according to an analysis of the current statistics, compiled by John Burn-Murdoch at The Financial Times. 

FT graph
FT graphic: John Burn-Murdoch / @jburnmurdoch

Italy saw the number of daily fatalities come down from a world record 793 on Saturday to 651 on Sunday and 601 on Monday. The number of new officially registered infections fell from 6,557 on Saturday to 4,789 on Monday.

However, the figure just released for Tuesday from Italy shows 743 deaths in the past 24 hours – now a total of 6,820.

Scientists believe that countries such as Spain and France are following in Italy’s footsteps with a lag of a few weeks.

Italy’s daily deaths are still higher than those officially recorded in China at the peak of its crisis in Wuhan‘s central Hubei province. They are also higher than those seen anywhere else in the world.

ALSO READ: Madrid starts receiving patients at IFEMA exhibition centre ‘hospital’

SPAIN SEEKS HELP FROM NATO

On Tuesday it was also announced that Spain’s armed forces are asking NATO for humanitarian assistance to fight Coronavirus. Despite the lockdown imposed on 14 March, deaths and infections continue to rise across Spain, with the Spanish Military Emergencies Unit (UME) already called in to join efforts to curb the spread.

In a statement, NATO said Spain’s military had asked for ‘international assistance’, seeking medical supplies, and specifying 450,000 respirators, 500,000 rapid testing kits, 500 ventilators and 1.5 million surgical masks.

Spanish government spokeswoman María Jesus Montero told a news conference, ‘We are aware of just how hard it is to prolong this [lockdown], but it is absolutely imperative that we keep fighting the virus in order to win this battle.’

The surge in confirmed cases has brought Spain’s medical system to the brink of collapse.

In Andalusia in the south of Spain, Rafael Aguilera, the mayor of the small town of Alcala del Valle, pleaded for help after reporting 38 of 42 residents at the local nursing home had tested positive for Coronavirus, along with 60% of the staff.

‘The virus doesn’t kill people … what’s killing people is the system,’ he said. ‘Our seniors need a permanent solution now. We need oxygen, ambulances and hospitals,’ he said in a video that was posted on the town’s Facebook page. ‘A person died in our arms because we couldn’t get hold of oxygen.’

DEATHS AT SOME RETIREMENT HOMES TO BE INVESTIGATED

Spanish soldiers who have been deployed to help fight the Coronavirus outbreak have been discovering elderly patients abandoned, and sometimes dead, at some retirement homes in Spain.

‘We are going to be strict and inflexible when dealing with the way old people are treated in these residences,’ Defence Minister Margarita Robles said in a recent TV interview. ‘The army, during certain visits, found some old people completely abandoned, sometimes even dead in their beds,’ she added.

Retirement homes are ‘an absolute priority for the government’, Spain’s Health Minister Salvador Illa also told a recent press conference. ‘We will exercise the most intensive monitoring of these centres.’

Spain’s Defence Ministry has confirmed that bodies have been found at several elderly care centres. At some of these locations, it has been reported that some staff members walked out after Coronavirus outbreaks were detected. An investigation has been launched, Spain’s general prosecutor has announced.

The chief public prosecutor in Catalonia has also ordered an investigation into the deaths of 22 people on account of Coronavirus in two elderly care homes in the region, with the most recent death reported on Tuesday.

The care homes are in Capellades, where 13 elderly people have so far died due to the virus, and in Olesa de Montserrat, where there have been nine deaths.

Spain’s defence chief of staff Miguel Ángel Villarroya announced at the Monday morning press conference in Madrid that the military were to carry out further ‘disinfections in 135 areas and in 92 elderly centres’.

IFEMA EXHIBITION CENTRE HOSPITAL

Villarroya also said that members of Spain’s Military Emergencies Unit (UME) continued to work at Madrid’s IFEMA exhibition centre, which was being turned into a hospital, eventually to have 5,500 hospital beds as well as an intensive care unit. The military was also offering support to install a homeless shelter at the Feria de Barcelona‘s exhibition centre.

Healthworkers IFEMA
Healthworkers preparing beds at the hospital being set up at the IFEMA exhibition centre in Madrid. (Photo courtesy of Comunidad de Madrid)

ICE RINK MORGUE

It was also announced yesterday that the ice rink at the Palacio de Hielo (Ice Palace) within a shopping complex in Madrid has been turned into a temporary morgue. This is to help deal with a surge in deaths in the capital, according to Madrid City Hall, with the city’s funeral services currently overwhelmed.

‘We don’t have the logistical capacity to carry out all the burials and cremations at the rate at which people are dying,’ the Mayor of Madrid José Luis Martinez-Almeida said on TV..

CATALONIA

In Catalonia, a ‘Hotels Salut’, or ‘Health Hotels’ project was announced on Sunday by Alba Vergés, responsible for the Catalan health department. The project sees hotels collaborating with the health authorities to provide beds for Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms, as well as for people instructed to self-isolate but who are unable to do so at home.

The scheme offers extra beds to relieve the strain on hospitals, and means that hotel staff can retrain and continue working. The first hotel where this measure has been applied is the Cotton House Hotel in Barcelona.

Other hotels, including the Diagonal Centre and Rigoletto, are being used by health professionals and the health service’s staff.

On Monday, the Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa confirmed the decree forcing all tourist accommodation in Spain to close would be supplemented by a new order, allowing hotels tending to Coronavirus patients to remain open.

During the first phase, 500 hotel beds in Barcelona will be made available to the health service, with plans to expand both within the Catalan capital and to other cities as necessary. The Catalan health department also plans to double the number of Intensive Care Units (ICUs) in Catalonia by the end of this week and triple them by the end of next week, in order to treat severe cases of Coronavirus.

The health service’s director, Adrià Comella warned they have to prepare for ‘worst case scenarios’ and ‘very tense situations’ in the next three or four weeks, but urged people ‘not to lose hope’.

The Catalan government, led by Quim Torra, has been asking the Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez to impose a total lockdown since 12 March.

Quim Torra
Quim Torra during the video-conference with Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez and all other regional presidents on Sunday 22 March.

Torra asked for it again on Sunday in a video-conference call with Sánchez and other regional presidents. Torra was joined by the presidents of the Madrid, Murcia and Andalusia regions in calls for an enhancement of the lockdown. Murcia ordered the halt of all non-essential activity, pending approval from the Spanish central government.

CORONAVIRUS ACROSS THE GLOBE

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson followed other European countries on Monday evening by ordering most non-essential shops and services to close in the UK, as the death toll reached 335.

Johnson said people must stay inside except to buy essentials and take daily exercise, but many questions remain about how the new rules will be enforced.

During Tuesday India – with a population of some 1.3bn people – also joined countries ordering their citizens to stay at home, which now puts a third of the world on lockdown as the Coronavirus pandemic continues. Japan is also postponing the Olympics until 2021.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi‘s ‘total lockdown’ call has doubled the number of people around the globe who are now under some form of movement restriction in order to slow the spread of the virus to more than 2.6bn people.

‘To save India, to save its every citizen, you, your family … every street, every neighbourhood is being put under lockdown,’ Modi said, announcing this would go into effect at midnight, Delhi time.

Also on Tuesday, G7 finance ministers and central bank chiefs vowed to ‘do whatever is necessary to restore confidence and economic growth and to protect jobs, businesses, and the resilience of the financial system’.

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg posted on Instagram on Tuesday that it was ‘extremely likely’ that she had contracted Coronavirus, after experiencing several symptoms following a trip to central Europe.

As of Tuesday, Sweden had reported 2,272 confirmed cases. Thunberg said she had not been tested, but that it was extremely likely she had the virus, ‘given the combined symptoms and circumstances’. She also said she had ‘basically recovered’ but cautioned others, saying she ‘almost didn’t feel ill’.

Numbers to call
The numbers to call for each region of Spain.

Click here for further information (in Spanish) regarding Coronavirus from the Spanish Health Ministry.

Up-to-date WHO advice and facts (in English) about the Coronavirus epidemic can be found here: www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/technical-guidance.

Our previous reports on Coronavirus in Spain:

ALSO READ: The new restrictions at Spain’s airports, ports and land borders

ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain full update (23 March)

ALSO READ: Madrid starts receiving patients at IFEMA exhibition centre ‘hospital’

ALSO READ: Confirmed: lockdown extended until at least 11 April

ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain full update (22 March)

ALSO READ: Walking a goat or a Vietnamese pig is not allowed

ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain – full advice for British travellers seeking to return to the UK

ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain full update (21 March)

ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain full update (20 March)

ALSO READ: ‘This virus we will stop together’ – video 

ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain full update (19 March)

ALSO READ: Despite lockdown, Spaniards applaud health workers from balconies every evening

ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain – full update (18 March)

ALSO READ: UEFA Euro 2020 postponed as Coronavirus hits global sport

ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain – full update (16 March)

ALSO READ: Spain to close its land borders

ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain update (15 March)

ALSO READ: Spain officially in lockdown from midnight (14 March)

ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain update – Spain ‘state of alarm’, Catalonia ‘lockdown’ (13 March)

ALSO READ: Coronavirus in Spain update – 4 Catalan towns in lockdown (12 March)

Editor’s note: 

At Spain in English we’re always keen to also publish positive stories and features about life in Spain – not just the current news. With all cultural and sporting events currently on hold, as well as travel and gastronomic excursions, we welcome on-going contributions from all of you who’d like to send us articles for publication. Although we are unable to currently pay for contributions, we will certainly credit you and share the articles across our social media network (if of interest) – and/or also link to your own blogs or other sites. We currently welcome upbeat, positive and fun articles – perhaps how you’re coping with the ‘lockdown’ in your own area of Spain – or how your community is responding, or recommendations of help to others. We have a dedicated ‘Opinion, Blogs & Spanish Experiences‘ section where your articles will appear. We will edit for clarity and length only – and we reserve the right to not publish. Articles should be sent via email to editorial@spainenglish.com (preferably with a photo and credit details), and should be around 500 words (800 to 1,000 max). We will try to respond to everyone, but please be patient with us. We’re a very small team but with big ambitions! Please stay safe. Thank you for reading and following us.

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