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Spain's death toll rises to 15,843 but the infection rate slowing down


Healthcare workers treat a coronavirus patient at the Vall d’Hebron hospital in Barcelona

Healthcare workers treat a coronavirus patient at the Vall d’Hebron hospital in Barcelona

AFP via Getty Images

Healthcare workers treat a coronavirus patient at the Vall d’Hebron hospital in Barcelona

The coronavirus has claimed at least 15,843 lives in Spain and has officially infected 152,446 people, but both the rate of contagion and mortality are dropping, official health ministry data showed on Friday.

The 605 new deaths recorded overnight were the lowest increase since March 24. There were 4,576 more recorded infections than a day earlier, reducing the daily rate of contagion to 3%.

The Spanish government was meeting on Friday to establish a €20bn (£17.5bn) fund to help small businesses and the self-employed cope with the economic fallout from the Covid-19 outbreak, but it will also discuss what comes next for 47 million Spaniards who have been quarantined for four weeks.

After a two-week freeze of all non-essential economic activity, factories and construction sites are set to resume work on Monday. Schools, most shops and offices will remain closed, with people encouraged to work from home.

Experts have warned that the return of certain activity will increase contagion and that health authorities need to scrutinise any new cases.

A three-week survey of 30,000 households should help understand how many people are or have been infected and guide future "de-escalation" of the confinement measures, the government has said.

The state of emergency has been extended to April 26 for now, although Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez has said he will most likely be asking parliament for further extensions.

Meanwhile UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres has warned that the coronavirus pandemic is threatening international peace and security as world leaders warn against relaxing social distancing rules during Easter.

Mr Guterres told the UN Security Council the pandemic could potentially lead "to an increase in social unrest and violence that would greatly undermine our ability to fight the disease".

The council is the UN's most powerful body and it has been silent on Covid-19 since it started circling the globe in January.

But after Thursday's meeting the council issued its first brief press statement, saying it expressed "support for all efforts of the secretary-general concerning the potential impact of the Covid-19 pandemic to conflict-affected countries".

It came after world leaders and health officials warned that hard-won gains in the fight against coronavirus must not be jeopardised by relaxing social distancing over the Easter holidays.

A spike in deaths in the UK and New York and surges of reported new infections in Japan and in India's congested cities make it clear that the battle is far from over.

"We are flattening the curve because we are rigorous about social distancing," New York governor Andrew Cuomo said. "But it's not a time to be complacent. It's not a time to do anything different than we've been doing."

The US has by far the most confirmed cases, with more than 430,000 people infected - three times the number of the next three countries combined.

Numbers released by the US government showed that 6.6 million American workers applied for unemployment benefits last week, on top of more than 10 million in the two weeks before that.

That amounts to about one in 10 American workers, the biggest, fastest pileup of job losses since the world's largest economy began keeping records in 1948.

In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasised that people should not travel as usual this weekend, saying: "Even short trips inside Germany, to the seaside or the mountains or relatives, can't happen over Easter this year."

In New Zealand, police warned people not to drive to their holiday homes over Easter or they would be risking arrest.

"It's simple - travelling to and from different towns and cities risks spreading Covid-19, and puts lives at risk," police said.

Lithuania is restricting public movement and imposing a lockdown on major cities during Easter to prevent the further spread of infection in the predominantly Catholic nation.

Belfast Telegraph