SPAIN has recorded less than 900 coronavirus deaths in a single-day period for the first time since Thursday.
Health chiefs offered a glimmer of hope today by announcing 809 deaths in the past 24 hours.
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The figure remains depressingly high, but it represents a drop of more than 120 on Friday’s figure of 932.
Thursday’s single-death toll tally of 950 marked a national record.
Significantly the number of new infections is also continuing to slow down, with an increase of 7,026 in the past 24 hours – roughly 6 per cent – compared with 7,472 in the 24 hours to Friday.
The new Spanish Ministry of Health figures show 11,744 people with coronavirus have now died since the start of the crisis and just over 6,500 people are in intensive care.
The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Spain now stands at 124,736, around 5,000 more than Italy’s recorded total of 119,827 cases, although Italy’s death figure at 14,681 is higher than Spain’s and its updated figures will be released later today.
Only the US, with a total of 277,522, currently has more recorded coronavirus cases than Spain.
The number of cured coronavirus patients in Spain is at 34,219.
The rest of Europe has been watching Spain closely in hopes the spread of infection will soon begin to slow for the rest of the continent.
Britain is said to be two weeks behind, so the UK's lockdown may last until at least the end of May.
The PM's adviser told BBC Radio 4 the pandemic was expected to plateau in the next week to ten days – but said people's behaviour was critical in determining what happens next.
Professor Neil Ferguson said if there was a rapid decline in cases, the Government would consider whether it could relax certain measures in "a way which is safe and still ensures the epidemic goes down".
Italy, the worst-hit country in Europe, could remain under lockdown until mid-May to try and contain the virus.
The country is set to extend its four-week lockdown by another fortnight later this week if PM Pedro Sanchez wins the support of opposition MPs.
He is due to speak to rival party leaders this weekend to tell them he wants to maintain the state of emergency until April 26.
Spain’s Parliament would have to agree to a second extension in a vote on Wednesday.
Analysts expect most opposition parties will back the move, although Sanchez has faced increasing criticism from the likes of Popular Party leader Pedro Casado who have voiced anger at the government’s failure to consult them on key coronavirus decisions.
The right-wing politician claimed on Thursday Sanchez had not called him for 10 days, accusing him of “arrogance” and “incompetence” in his handling of the coronavirus crisis.
The government is also expected to start recommending the use of face masks later this week in a U-turn on its initial strategy.
Catalonia Civil Protection Agency has already urged supermarket shoppers to use the masks to stop the spread of the killer virus.
Spain’s Health Minister Salvador Illa insisted early on in the crisis: “It’s not necessary to use face masks in the street.”
Spain’s Health Ministry has always said face masks only need to be worn by coronavirus sufferers, health workers and OAP carers, claiming regular hand-washing was a more effective protection.
But yesterday Mr Illa, indicating the advice looks likely to change once enough face masks are available although the government will steer clear of compulsory orders, said: “The generalised use of face masks is probably one of the measures we are going to recommend, but I don’t want to anticipate anything until we have decided on it and we can make an official announcement.”
It is not yet clear if a new lockdown extension will lead to the continued shutdown of all economic activities which are not considered essential.
The number of people who could continue to work was slashed at the start of the week as Spain began its third week of lockdown. Until then sectors like construction had been unaffected.
The tightening up of the new regulations, announced a fortnight after bars, cafes, nightclubs and theatres were ordered to close, led to 200,000 construction workers being sent home in Spain’s southern region of Andalucia alone.
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