After Italy, Spain witnesses second-highest number of coronavirus COVID-19 deaths; global toll reaches 20,499

New Delhi: Spain is turning out to the next hotspot of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The death toll in Spain jumped by 738 overnight to exceed that of China, where the disease originated in late 2019. 

The global toll on Wednesday night (11:30 pm IST, March 25) reached 20,499 with total confirmed cases of 4,51,355, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s latest graph.

With 3,434 fatalities, Spain now has the second-highest number of coronavirus deaths globally after Italy’s 6,820. Spain’s medical facilities are under great stress as hospitals across the country have been overwhelmed by cases and a skating rink in Madrid has been turned into a makeshift morgue.

Authorities started to carry out mass testing for public workers in a requisitioned fairground in Madrid, one of the worst-hit regions. Spanish medical staff, who themselves account for thousands of infected cases, have taken out lawsuits against the government, complaining of lack of basic protective equipment like masks, scrubs, and gloves, according to a Reuters report.

The Spanish Armed Forces Chief Miguel Villarroya was quoted by Reuters as asking NATO for ventilators, protective gear, and testing kits. March 25 is Spain’s Day 11 of a 15-day nationwide lockdown which is likely to be extended to 30 days to tackle coronavirus pandemic. 

Schools, bars, restaurants, and most of the shops are shuttered. Social gatherings are banned. People are confined to their homes. However, the infection rate is still soaring with the number of coronavirus cases increasing by a fifth in 24 hours to 47,610 on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, Italy’s daily COVID-19 death toll shot back up Tuesday, but pieces of evidence have emerged that the coronavirus infection rate is slowing thanks to a painful national lockdown. Health officials across the ravaged Mediterranean country are poring over every new piece of data to see whether two weeks of bans and closures have made a dent in the crisis.

Italy’s 743 new deaths broke two days of successive declines that had taken the number down to 601 on Monday. It had set a world record of 793 fatalities on Saturday. But the rate of officially registered new infections was just eight per cent — the same as Monday and the lowest level since Italy registered its first death on February 21. It had been as high as 50 per cent at the start of March, said a PTI report.

The slowing contagion rate is offering a ray of hope in the midst of a global crisis that is deepening in parts of Europe and the United States.

Scientists reportedly believe that countries such as Spain and France are following in Italy’s footsteps with a lag of a few weeks. The numbers from the US are also similar to those of Italy’s from about 20 days ago.

Most other European nations and some US states have followed Italy’s example and imposed their own containment and social distancing measures designed to stop the spread.

Italy’s daily deaths (7503) are still higher than those officially recorded in China (3163) at the peak of its crisis in Wuhan’s central Hubei province. They are also higher than those seen anywhere else in the world.

Most big global banks think Italy has already entered a deep economic recession that could be more severe than anything seen in decades.

(With Agency Inputs)