Spanish health authorities on Wednesday (8 April) reported another upsurge of new coronavirus cases and daily fatalities but also recoveries as the World Health Organisation commended the country’s “heroic” response to the pandemic, EURACTIV’s partner EFE reports.
757 people had died from the coronavirus in the last 24 hours bringing the total to 14,555, according to the Spanish health ministry. However, 32% of the 146,690 who tested positive for the virus had recovered, with 4,813 recoveries in the last 24 hours, it added.
Meanwhile, Bruce Aylward, the head of the WHO mission to Spain, told a Geneva video press conference that the country’s decision to fully confine its roughly 47 million people as a response to the pandemic had been inspirational.
“What I saw in Spain was truly heroic,” he said, adding that it was “an extraordinary and innovative response”.
Aylward emphasised the “striking speed” of the outbreak in the country, adding that in the early days of the pandemic, from about 23-24 February, Spain was registering just two or three cases per day, mostly imported by tourists vacationing in the country’s islands.
Less than two weeks later, all 17 of Spain’s autonomous regions had detected cases and the number of infections was doubling every day, he said.
Between 7 and 14 March, Spanish health authorities detected a 20-fold increase in case numbers. But following Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez’s decision to place the country on lockdown, those figures went from doubling every five days to doubling every eight, the WHO expert said, adding there was “hope and evidence that this outbreak is definitely slowing down”.
Admiration for health workers
Aylward also expressed his “admiration” for health workers in intensive care units, who have had to deal with shortages of protective equipment, as well as the general public, who have remained at home, leaving the streets of Madrid and Barcelona empty.
Fernando Simón, the head of Spain’s public health emergency department, said the country was approaching the end of the first phase of the lockdown but that the gradual lifting of restrictions — forecast to start on 26 April — would usher in another difficult stage.
Although some liberties will be restored, the public will have to remain vigilant and continue to adhere to strict social distancing rules to avoid a resurgence of the virus, he said.
The lockdown — which was further tightened at the end of last month — had helped soften the blow of the COVID-19 pandemic on the country’s already over-stretched healthcare system and ICUs, Simón added.
After a week of daily consecutive decreases in the number of new coronavirus cases, which dropped to its lowest (3.26%) on Monday (6 April), Spain’s figures jumped on Tuesday and Wednesday by 4.05% and 4.4% respectively.
Stabilising the curve
Health minister Salvador Illa reminded lawmakers on Wednesday that this figure had reached a 15% increase per day two weeks ago and 7% just the week before. Despite a jump in figures this week, which authorities said were due to delays in compiling regional data over the weekend, Spain had still passed through the peak of the curve, he said.
“The data confirmed the stabilisation of the curve, it’s flattening out. We have reached the peak and we are in a phase of slowing down,” he said, adding that authorities would roll out a mass testing plan to examine the level of immunity to COVID-19 in the population, starting with 62,000 tests.
(Edited by Frédéric Simon)