Spain toll crosses 4000; Italy 7503

Few cars run in a street of Barcelona, Spain. (Photo by Joan Gosa/Xinhua)

Spain has surpassed China to become the second worst-hit country after Italy. The coronavirus pandemic has claimed 7,503 lives in Italy, while the cumulative number of confirmed cases have reached 74,386…reports Asian Lite News

BETHLEHEM, March 11, 2020 (Xinhua) -- Palestinian health staff wearing protective masks stand at the emergency entrance of Beit Jala Hospital, near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, March 11, 2020. Palestine on Tuesday reported a new case of the novel coronavirus, bring the total number of the infected people to 30. Palestinian authorities have shut down the entire district of Bethlehem and prepared a specialized hospital to deal with the coronavirus disease. (Photo by Luay Sababa/Xinhua/IANS) by .
Palestinian health staff wearing protective masks stand at the emergency entrance. (Photo by Luay Sababa/Xinhua/IANS)

The number of coronavirus deaths in Spain has surpassed China, where the pandemic originated last December, to become the second worst-hit country in terms of fatalities after Italy.

According to update by the Washington-based John Hopkins University, Spain has recorded a total of 4100 deaths, while the death toll in China stood at 3,291. Italy tops the list of global deaths at 7,503.

According to Fernando Simon, the head of the country’s emergency public health department, the fatality ratio has levelled out in recent days and figures seem to indicate that Spain is approaching a peak in coronavirus cases, reports Efe news.

“If we are not already at the peak, then we are close,” he said in his daily briefing on Wednesday.

The new figures were released halfway through a crucial week for Spain as authorities monitor whether a draconian national lockdown adopted 11 days ago has led to a flattening of the curve of new infections.

ROSH HAAYIN, March 15, 2020 (Xinhua) -- Local residents wearing face masks purchase daily necessities at a supermarket in the central Israeli city of Rosh Haayin, March 14, 2020. So far, 193 coronavirus cases have been reported in Israel, of whom four have recovered. (JINI/Handout via Xinhua/IANS) by .
Local residents wearing face masks purchase daily necessities at a supermarket. (JINI/Handout via Xinhua/IANS)

But concerns have been raised over the welfare of the country’s health careworkers after figures showed that they accounted for more than 13 per cent of COVID-19 cases in Spain, an issue the government has put down to difficulties accessing a highly competitive market for protective gear and equipment.

Health Minister, Salvador Illa on Wednesday announced a new deal with China for the provision of hundreds of millions of medical items.

He said the deal would see Spain receive 550 million masks – only six million have been distributed in the first 10 days of the health crisis so far – 5.5 million rapid testing kits and 11 million pairs of gloves over the next four to eight weeks.

“The supply is going to be weekly, in a staggered manner. The first will be done at the end of this week,” he told a press conference. “Additionally, the Spanish government is implementing the domestic production of all these items.”

The number of ventilators included in the deal for those being monitored in ICU is substantially less, with 950 expected to be delivered between April and June.

 by . The contract with China, valued at 432 million euros ($466 million), came after a phone conversation between the Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Meanwhile, the immediate effect of the coronavirus pandemic on Spain’s employment figures, between those who have lost jobs and those now unable to work, will be released as usual at the end of the month.

Social Security Minister Jose Luis Escriba said the government was studying a basic living wage to those affected by this crisis.

Spanish lawmakers were set to vote on the extension of the country’s lockdown by two more weeks, meaning some 47 million Spaniards could be kept housebound until at least mid-April.

Situation in Italy

The coronavirus pandemic has claimed 7,503 lives in Italy, while the cumulative number of confirmed cases have reached 74,386, Italian authorities said.

Active infections grew by 3,491 cases on the daily basis, bringing the total active infections to 57,521 since the epidemic broke out in the northern regions on February 21, the Civil Protection Department coordinating the emergency response said on Wednesday, Xinhua reported.

The cumulative number of confirmed cases grew by 5,210 cases, while 683 new fatalities were registered compared to Tuesday.

Among the people positive to the coronavirus, some 30,920, asymptomatic or with slight symptoms, are currently under home confinement, and 3,489 are in intensive care, while the rest 23,112 are hospitalized in normal wards, the Civil Protection Department added.

With a daily increase by 1,036 in the number of people cured, the total recoveries was 9,362, the latest data showed.

In terms of geographical spreading of the contagion, northern regions remained the most affected. Lombardy registered 20,591 active infections up to Wednesday, followed by Emilia Romagna (8,256), Veneto (5,745) and Piedmont (5,556).

In the daily press conference to update the situation, Civil Protection officials said epidemic trends seemed to meet expectations, and strongly appealed again to people to respect all rules and restrictions imposed by a nationwide lockdown that is going to be effective until April 3.

A seagull stands near the Colosseum in Rome, Italy. (Photo by Alberto Lingria/Xinhua/IANS)

“We are in a phase of apparent stabilization, and we believe the number of infected people, or new cases, is consistent with the trend that the virus spreading has had in the country,” Agostino Miozzo, coordinator of the Civil Protection’s scientific-technical committee, told the press conference.

“This makes us to think it is absolutely crucial to keep respecting the measures of social distancing, if we want to see the curve stabilize and then decrease,” he stressed.

In this regards, the World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant Director-General Ranieri Guerra on Wednesday told local media that Italy’s epidemic might reach its peak this week.

“The slowing down in the pace of (contagion) growth is a positive factor, and in some (Italian) regions I believe we are getting close to the drop-off point of the curve,” Guerra told private radio broadcast Radio Capital.

“I believe this week and the first days of the next will be crucial, since these will be the moments in which the government’s measures passed 15-20 days ago should find an effect, an impact,” Guerra said.

Still on the emergency response to the epidemic, Civil Protection officials said that over 9,600 volunteers have been deployed across the country to assist police forces, army, and health system engaged against the epidemic.

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People wearing masks walk though streets

A wide response in terms of solidarity was also arriving from citizens, who donated over 44 million euros ($47.8 million) to a special bank account opened by the Civil Protection Department, and devoted specifically to the emergency.

“So far, we have also put up some 720 tents for pre-triage outside hospitals’ emergency rooms, which are very useful to detect and contain possible new cases,” Luigi D’Angelo, Operative Director of the Civil Protection Department told reporters.

“Another 151 tents for pre-triage were set up inside prisons to monitor the situation among inmates,” he added.

Meanwhile, Italy’s health professionals were paying a high price in this emergency. Fatalities linked to the COVID-19 included 31 doctors, of which at least five were family doctors who died in the last 24 hours, the Italian federation of general medicine physicians said on Wednesday.

Late on Wednesday, updating the parliament on all the emergency measures approved by the cabinet, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte also addressed this aspect of the emergency.

“New doctors will be dispatched to the most affected hospitals in the next few days, and, as far as I know, a first group should have arrived already in the past hours,” Conte told lawmakers. “We will also transfer some 500 nurses in the areas with the highest number of COVID-19 patients.”

The prime minister further explained beds in intensive care have been increased from 5,343 to 8,370, and beds in sub-intensive care have also been added to 26,169 from 6,525.

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