Spain reported the biggest increase in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in more than a week, pushing the total in Europe’s most extensive outbreak close to 190,000.
There were 5,252 new infections in the 24 hours through Friday, the most since April 9, taking the total to 188,068, according to Fernando Simon, the government’s top scientific adviser on the pandemic. Data on the latest daily death toll were not immediately made available.
Spain’s health minister said this week that the peak of the virus had been reached and the focus is turning to “bending” the infection curve. Spain has suffered more deaths per million inhabitants than any other nation, with a toll of more than 19,000 as of Thursday.
Despite the latest rise, the most recent figures are still roughly half the number compared with the turn of the month, suggesting that the outbreak is losing intensity. There were more than 9,000 new cases on March 31 and 950 new deaths on April 2, the biggest daily increases to date.
The government is coming under increasing pressure to ease the restrictions on public life that have plunged the economy into deep recession.
For the time being, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and his ministers have said that the current measures will be extended beyond an April 25 expiry date, that rules are likely to be eased on a sector-to-sector basis and that schools will probably remain closed until September.
In recent days, Spain has been ramping up testing. Simon, the government adviser, said Thursday that daily tests have doubled to around 40,000. He acknowledged that gauging the real number of fatalities is “difficult.”
There is growing scrutiny of the health ministry’s virus statistics. One focus is on a dramatic surge in deaths in nursing homes in Madrid and other regions. Spanish rules don’t require a coronavirus test be performed post-mortem even when the person had Covid-19 symptoms.
The actual number of deaths in Madrid is 71% more, or 4,801, than official statistics, news website El Confidencial estimated on Thursday, based on data from Madrid’s Council of Social Issues.
Government Spokeswoman Maria Jesus Montero has defended the criteria used, saying they follow World Health Organization guidelines. In a press briefing Thursday, she suggested that questioning official data might be an attempt to “confuse the public.”
The government on Friday ordered a wider range of reporting. Each region now must disclose what kind of test was used to determine an infection, the number of deaths of patients that weren’t hospitalized, and give a weekly tally of their stock of masks, goggles and ventilators.