Spain became the third country to surpass China in coronavirus infections after the United States and Italy on Monday. With a population of 47 million, the country’s tally of infections reached 85,195, a rise of eight percent from the previous day.
Monday also saw 812 fatalities, bringing the death toll to 7,340 since the outbreak started in earnest in early March, Spain’s Health Ministry said in a statement.
Yet it was the first decline in the number of deaths in a 24-hour period since Thursday in the country, which has the world’s second most deadly outbreak after Italy. Spain recorded 838 virus deaths on Sunday.
Officials pointed to a slower growth rate for both deaths and confirmed cases and expressed hope that the peak of the outbreak was approaching.
Monday’s percentage increase from the previous day in the number of total deaths was 12.4%, less than half the increase of 27% recorded on Wednesday.
In Madrid, where nearly half of the total deaths have been recorded, flags were hoisted at half-staff as authorities declared official mourning, with a minute of silence observed at noontime.
Authorities also stepped up the country’s half-a-month lockdown on Monday, beginning with a new two-week period of “hibernation,” as described by a Spanish cabinet member, in order to alleviate the pressure of the illness in the country’s health system.
Only workers in hospitals, pharmacies, the food supply chain and other essential industries are required to work until the end of Easter, in mid-April, while the rest have been asked to scale back operations to weekend level.
At least six of Spain’s 17 regions are at their limit of ICU beds and three more were close to it, authorities said, while frantic construction of field hospitals continued.
There have been 82,198 confirmed cases in China with 3,308 deaths. The US tops the list of confirmed cases with 143,055, followed by Italy with 97,689. There have been 2,513 deaths in the US and 10,779 fatalities in Italy, the highest number in the world, according to Monday figures from the John Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.