Spain passed another grim milestone in its coronavirus outbreak on Thursday, reporting that more than 10,000 have now died in the country as a result of the virus.
The Health Ministry said it recorded 950 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the highest single-day increase the country has seen so far. Its total death tally is now 10,003.
But there was some cause for cautious optimism in the country, whose devastating outbreak appears to be slowing.
The 10.5 per cent rise reported Thursday is similar to Wednesday’s increase and smaller in percentage terms than any recorded in the past two weeks.
It comes after the country’s Health Minister said the curve of new cases in Spain has come under control, and that the drastic emergency measures put in place to lock down the country are working.
“The data shows us that the curve has stabilized,” Salvador Illa said in the government’s Thursday press conference. “That we have achieved the primary objective of reaching the peak of the curve and that now we are starting the phase of deceleration.”
Spain’s government has come under criticism from opposition parties, some health workers and unions for reported shortages of ICU facilities, lack of sufficient personal protective gear and overstretched health workers.
Illa warned that the country’s health service remains under strain, saying: “Even observing a decrease in the number of admissions, the long stays in these units produce an effect of accumulation of patients because of which there still remains difficult weeks for our health system.”
But officials have indicated that Spain’s harsh lockdown measures are having the desired effect.
Health official María José Sierra said on Wednesday that the lower case numbers help “evaluate the measures we’ve been taking very positively,” and that in many communities around the country the government has seen pressure on intensive care units ease.
Spain has been one of the world’s worst-hit countries, trailing only Italy in total deaths from COVID-19, and behind Italy and the United States in total reported cases.
Meanwhile, Spaniards continue to grapple with the devastating economic impact of the pandemic.
The nation registered an increase in unemployment of 302,265 people in March compared to the previous month, according to Spanish Labor Ministry data released Thursday.
This increase represents the largest monthly rise since records began, Labor Minister Yolanda Diaz said at a press conference in Madrid on Thursday. She called the increase in unemployment “absolutely exceptional” and “historic.”