Spain registered 849 fatalities related to coronavirus overnight, the highest number in 24 hours since the epidemic started, although the increase in percentage terms was slightly lower than in the previous days, the health ministry said on Tuesday.
The death toll rose to 8,189 on Tuesday from 7,340 on Monday, while the number of cases rose to 94,417 on Tuesday from 85,195 on Monday.
The increase came after a day in which the number of deaths had fallen slightly, raising hopes the coronavirus epidemic could be reaching a peak in Spain, which has logged the world’s second-highest number of deaths from the coronavirus, after Italy.
The Spanish government is betting that severe restrictions on public life at least through the Easter weekend will help curtail the spread of the disease, which has killed more people in Spain than in China where the pandemic started.
A two-week, nationwide lockdown began March 14, when the government announced a state of emergency, and was subsequently extended to April 11.
Spain prides itself on having one of the world’s best health services, but it has been stretched to breaking point by the crisis. Hospitals are seeing scores of medical workers falling ill and requiring quarantine, while the arrival of protective gear is suffering delays.
Crews of workers and soldiers have been frantically building more field hospitals in the capital and surrounding towns.
At least one third of Spain’s 17 regions have already hit capacity in their intensive care units, officials have warned, with three more close to their limit.
The health crisis is having a severe impact on the economy. Hundreds of thousands of Spaniards have already applied for unemployment subsidies since the confinement measures began in mid-March.
A 200-billion euro aid package, much of it from public funds, has been rolled out to help workers and companies cushion the drop in production.
Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s left-wing Cabinet is expected to add a new 700-million-euro aid package, including zero interest loans, as well as suspend evictions for families who can’t afford to pay their home rent.
Outbreak experts say Europe’s hospital-centric systems, lack of epidemic experience and early complacency are partly to blame for the pandemic’s catastrophic tear across the continent.