MADRID (Reuters) – Spain on Wednesday reported its first death from the coronavirus since Sunday as the government sought parliament’s backing for a final extension to the country’s state of emergency.
A man wearing a mask walks past a couple on a bench at La Concha beach amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in San Sebastian, Spain, May 30, 2020. REUTERS/Vincent West
Confirmed cases increased by 219 from the previous day to 240,326, while the cumulative death toll reached 27,128.
Just a month ago Spain was logging over a thousand new cases and hundreds of deaths every day, overwhelming the health service.
In recognition of their “enormous personal sacrifice”, front-line medical workers were awarded the prestigious Princess of Asturias Award on Wednesday. More than 50,000 health workers have been infected with the virus.
Data released by the National Statistics Institute (INE) revealed a shocking 155% spike in mortality at the epidemic’s early-April peak, though not all excess deaths can be directly linked to the coronavirus.
“There are other possible reasons for excess deaths,” Health Emergency Coordinator Fernando Simon said, suggesting seasonal flu could be behind some of them. “Or it could be because of an overloaded health system and delayed access to hospitals.”
Thanks to strict confinement measures the government believes the worst is now over, a claim borne out by the INE data, which shows mortality between May 18-24 was at roughly the same level as a year earlier.
Still, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez wants to extend the state of emergency, which grants his government exceptional powers, until June 21 to allow greater control as the lockdown is phased out.
His proposal looked set to pass in the 350-seat lower house, despite opposition from the conservative People’s Party and the far-right Vox.
As restrictions on movement are eased Spain is evaluating how to restart its tourism industry, which accounts for 12% of economic output.
On Wednesday the tourism ministry said it might open up some limited travel from June 22, despite earlier plans to reopen from July 1.
Reporting by Nathan Allen and Inti Landauro; Editing by Andrei Khalip and Giles Elgood