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Coronavirus update: Spain sees rise in deaths

19:19 | 07/04/2020

 Coronavirus update: The pace of coronavirus deaths in Spain ticked up slightly for the first time in five days on Tuesday, with 743 people succumbing overnight to reach a total of 13,798.

coronavirus update spain sees rise in deaths
A worker walks past coffins, most of them containing the bodies of Covid-19 victims, in the parking of a funeral parlour in Barcelona, Spain April 2, 2020. REUTERS - NACHO DOCE

That compared to 637 people who died during the previous 24 hours in the nation with the second highest toll of fatalities in the world from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Total cases rose to 140,510 on Tuesday from 135,032 on Monday, the health ministry said.

Spain has more than 136,000 registered cases now and 13,000 recorded deaths. The death toll is lower than Italy in absolute terms, but slightly higher if one takes into account Spain’s smaller population.

What’s worse is prime minister Pedro Sanchez, much like his counterparts in France and the UK, ignored the health crisis unfolding in Italy and dithered before imposing the kind of draconian lockdown measures that could have saved thousands of lives.

The Spanish government should have been especially cautious given the fragility of its health care system. Fernando Simon, the head of the health ministry’s Coordination Centre for Health Alerts and Emergencies, said at the start of the crisis that Spain had roughly 4,400 intensive care beds, for a population of nearly 47 million.

Compare that to Germany, which has a population of nearly 84 million but started the crisis with 28,000 critical care beds.

The Spanish government is rushing to open up new hospitals, but doctors are already facing supply shortage problems, as they did in Italy, and are having to make devastating decisions over how to prioritise their scarce resources.

The rest of the political class has not helped. Spain is a federalist country, where autonomous regions hold power over a range of policy areas including health care.

Prime Minister Sanchez eventually claimed emergency powers for his government, but only after a string of regional politicians had resisted.

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