Spain's pace of coronavirus deaths slows again

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain’s pace of new coronavirus deaths slowed for the fourth day on Monday as the government contemplated a gradual easing of a lockdown in place since mid-March in the country with the second highest death toll from the global pandemic.

As with worst-hit Italy, data in Spain is giving cause for hope the peak has passed. On Monday, it reported 637 fatalities in the previous 24 hours – a 5% increase in total and less than half the pace recorded a week earlier.

“The pandemic’s growth rate is slowing down in almost every region,” Maria Jose Sierra, deputy head of Spain’s health emergency committee, said at a virtual news conference.

Though starting to hope for an end to their torment, Spaniards were also venting frustration on social media at the lengthy stay-at-home.

“I’d love to be in a bar, listening to good music and accompanied by many litres of beer – but no, I’m lying in bed and already sick of this confinement,” tweeted Robert from Zaragoza. “I only hope at some point we return to normality.”

One mother, Sandra Eva, said her four-year-old girl was upset at missing Easter traditions.

“She asks me why we can’t go out to watch the #Easter processions. That it’s not fair. That she wants to see them. And that she’s tired of the #coronavirus,” she tweeted.

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“PREPARING FOR DE-ESCALATION”

Officials said for restrictions to be lifted, testing had to be widened beyond those suspected of having the COVID-19 disease and health workers, so as to find carriers who may have no symptoms or only very mild symptoms.

“We are preparing ourselves for de-escalation for which it is important to know who is contaminated to be able to gradually lift Spanish citizens’ lockdown,” Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez told TV station Antena 3.

Spanish companies are manufacturing 240,000 test kits per week and are boosting capacity, the foreign minister said, while equipment is also being bought from abroad.

Spain has been in lockdown since March 14, with streets and famous tourist sites eerily silent.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said at the weekend that would remain in place until April 26.

However, he opened the door to easing some restrictions, such as keeping all non-essential workers at home, after Easter.

Monday’s data showed Spain’s total cases up to 135,032, the highest in Europe and second in the world after the United States.

However, in another positive sign, checkpoints were lifted in Igualada and three other hard-hit towns in the northeastern Catalonia region, where there have been more than 100 deaths, the health ministry said.

Sierra said more than 40,000 Spaniards had been discharged from hospital. Some 19,400 health workers had caught the disease, with the majority of them going into self-isolation at home and about 20 percent now better, she said.

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