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Spanish death toll rises to 3,434 as coronavirus spreads rapidly

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Healthcare workers applaud in return as they are cheered on by people outside the Fundacion Jimenez Diaz hospital in Madrid

Healthcare workers applaud in return as they are cheered on by people outside the Fundacion Jimenez Diaz hospital in Madrid

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Workers spray disinfectant at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

Workers spray disinfectant at the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul

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A mural dedicated to health staff in Bergamo

A mural dedicated to health staff in Bergamo

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Rush hour in Wellington

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A woman wears a mask in Moscow

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Healthcare workers applaud in return as they are cheered on by people outside the Fundacion Jimenez Diaz hospital in Madrid

The coronavirus death toll in Spain has shot up by more than 700, surpassing China and making the country second only to Italy as the pandemic spread rapidly in Europe.

Spain recorded a record daily increase of 738 deaths, pushing it to 3,434 overall and past China's 3,285, the Ministry of Health said.

The country's infections rose by 20% to 47,610, and more than 5,000 have recovered.

Spain's health system is overwhelmed, with hotels being converted into hospitals and a Madrid ice rink being used as a temporary morgue.

Legislators are set to extend the country's lockdown for two more weeks, to April 12.

Fernando Simon, head of Spain's health emergency co-ordination centre, said he hoped the numbers would peak soon.

"If we are not already at the peak, we are very close," he said. "I cannot say that we have reached it."

Spain's nursing home system has been hit particularly hard. Prosecutors are investigating several homes after troops disinfecting them discovered elderly people living among suspected coronavirus victims who had died.

Media reported that 23 residents of a Madrid retirement home had died from Covid-19 or symptoms related to the new virus. The residence said it had been pleading for more staff and supplies, including virus tests, after 55 of its workers had been forced to take medical leave.

Italy has been the hardest-hit nation in Europe with more than 69,000 infections and 6,800 deaths.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin has postponed a nationwide vote on proposed constitutional amendments that would allow him to seek another term in power. He did not set a new date for the plebiscite originally set for April 22, saying it would depend on how the coronavirus pandemic develops.

Russian authorities reported 658 cases of the new virus yesterday.

Belfast Telegraph