Coronavirus: Spain becomes third country with more cases than China

30 March 2020, 18:58

Barcelona Cathedral is deserted amid the outbreak
Barcelona Cathedral is deserted amid the outbreak. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Spain has become the third country to surpass China in coronavirus infections after the United States and Italy.

Confirmed cases in the country reached 85,000 on Monday, up eight per cent from the previous day.

It also reported more than 800 new deaths, for an overall toll of more than 7,300.

Spain has a population of only 47 million to China's 1.4 billion.

The health systems in Italy and Spain have been crumbling under the weight of caring for so many desperately ill patients at once.

Members of the Barcelona Fire Brigade disinfect nursing home facilities
Members of the Barcelona Fire Brigade disinfect nursing home facilities. Picture: PA

The two countries make up more than half the world's death toll from the virus that has upended the lives of billions and devastated world economies.

At least six of Spain's 17 regions were at their limit of ICU beds and three more were close to it, authorities said on Monday.

Crews of workers were frantically building more field hospitals.

"Reducing the pressure on the ICUs will be important for considering de-escalation measures," said Dr Maria Jose Sierra, who took over on Monday as the health emergency centre's spokesperson after its director tested positive.

Nearly 15 per cent of all those infected in Spain, almost 13,000 people, are health care workers.

Doctors wear protective clothing as they carry out checks on citizens in Naples, Italy
Doctors wear protective clothing as they carry out checks on citizens in Naples, Italy. Picture: PA

In a situation unimaginable only a month ago, Italian officials were cheered when they reported only 756 deaths in one day on Sunday.

The country said the number of deaths has dropped about 10 per cent a day since Friday.

"We are saving lives by staying at home, by maintaining social distance, by travelling less and by closing schools," said Dr Luca Richeldi, a lung specialist.

Italy has by far the most reported deaths, at nearly 11,000.

Meanwhile, in a stark reversal of his previous stance, US president Donald Trump extended federal guidelines recommending that Americans stay home for another 30 days until the end of April to slow the spread of the virus.

The turnabout came after Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said up to 200,000 Americans could die and millions become infected if lockdowns and social distancing did not continue.

"We want to make sure that we don't prematurely think we're doing so great," Dr Fauci said.

The US now has more than 143,000 infections and 2,500 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University, while three-quarters of a million people around the world have become infected and over 35,000 have died.

China's National Health Commission on Monday reported 31 new Covid-19 cases, among them just one domestic infection.

At the peak of China's restrictions, some 700 million people were in areas ordered to stay home, but those rules are easing.