Shellshocked Spain reports record 832 new coronavirus deaths

A municipal worker in protective gear disinfects a street during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Madrid
A municipal worker in protective gear disinfects a street during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Madrid, Spain March 23, 2020. REUTERS/Susana Vera

Spain’s coronavirus fatalities rose by a record 832 people overnight to 5,690 as hospitals and morgues were overwhelmed and a police chief fought back tears announcing a colleague’s death.

Second only to Italy in fatalities, Spain also saw infections rise to 72,248 on Saturday from 64,059 the day before.

Health emergency chief Fernando Simon said the epidemic appeared to be reaching its peak in some areas, but the nation was short of intensive care unit beds. “We continue to have a major problem with ICU saturation,” said Simon.

As Spain prepared to enter its third week of lockdown, an unused public building known as “the doughnut” was the latest to be turned into a makeshift morgue after a city ice rink last week, Spanish media including El Pais newspaper reported.

Civil Guard chief Jose Manuel Santiago became emotional as he paid homage to the head of his organisation’s rapid action group, who died of the coronavirus on Friday.

A delivery of 1.2 million masks bought by the Ministry of Transport from China for health, transport and postal workers touched down at Madrid airport, the government said.

In Barcelona, delivery workers with masks took free meals to health workers on Friday evening as part of the Delivery 4 Heroes initiative, which has seen six companies join forces to send free meals daily to up to 200 people.

“It is not only food, but a gift of emotion and encouragement to continue and to think that everything that is being done is really worth it,” Dr Luis Miguel Martin, who received dinner on Friday at Barcelona’s Hospital del Mar, told Reuters.

Schools, bars, restaurants and shops selling non-essential items have been shut since March 14 and most of the population is house-bound as Spain tries to curb the virus.

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