Spain becomes first western European country to hit one million Covid cases

21 October 2020, 18:33 | Updated: 21 October 2020, 19:44

Spain has become the first western European country to hit one million Covid cases
Spain has become the first western European country to hit one million Covid cases. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Spain has become the first western European country to hit one million cases of coronavirus.

The nation's Covid-19 tally has doubled in the space of just six weeks, taking the total number of infections in Spain to 1,005,295.

A further 16,973 cases were reported on Wednesday, according to the Spanish health ministry.

The rate of transmission in the Iberian country began rapidly climbing in late August, with more than 10,000 daily cases occurring regularly following a slow down in cases.

Over the past week, there have been a further 575 deaths, with the toll in Spain now standing at 34,366.

Experts say the real number of infections and deaths is probably much higher due to insufficient testing, asymptomatic cases and other issues that impede the authorities from capturing the true scale of the outbreak.

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It comes as the government considers a curfew on the population in order to curb the second wave of coronavirus.

In the capital, where almost a third of all infections have occurred, there has been a stand-off with central government over how best to limit the rising number of cases.

Madrid's regional president Isabel Díaz Ayuso promised “surgical measures to bring together the economy and health” while speaking on Wednesday morning.

She said: “For us, the most important thing is that the economy doesn’t suffer any more.”

Neighbouring France is also nearing the one-million-mark and will likely hit the grim milestone in the coming days.

Following a record daily high of more than 30,000 cases on Friday, there are now 999,744 confirmed infections, while the country's death toll is at 34,072.

As a result, President Emmanuel Macron is extending the coronavirus state of emergency until February 2021.

Meanwhile, 20 countries across the continent have now set new daily case records, including the UK, which saw another 26,688 positive tests on Wednesday.

The other countries include Armenia, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Ukraine.

As the numbers rise in Spain, health policy authorities are already tightening restrictions.

They want to stem the surge that has been building in recent months while avoiding a second total lockdown of home confinements that stemmed the first wave of the virus but left the economy reeling.

Read more: Spain imposes state of emergency in virus-hit Madrid

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The regional government of northern Aragon announced on Wednesday it has closed the city limits of Zaragoza, Huesca and Teruel.

Neighbouring Navarra, which leads Spain in infections per 100,000 over 14 days, is preparing to become the first Spanish region to close its borders on Thursday. La Rioja will also close its regional borders on Friday.

Spain's health minister Salvador Illa and regional heads of health will meet on Thursday to discuss their virus strategies and to consider employing nightly curfews to target late-night partying as a source of contagion.

"I want to be very clear," Mr Illa said Tuesday.

"Some very hard weeks are coming."

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