Spain’s PM warns of ‘hard days ahead’

Source:AFP Published: 2020/3/22 19:13:40

Spanish far-right Vox party MP Jose Maria Sanchez Garcia wears a face mask as a protective measure during a session at the Spanish Parliament in Madrid to explain the government's declaration of a State of Alert and measures taken to mitigate the consequences of COVID-19, on Wednesday. Spain currently ranks fourth in the world, with 13,700 people infected and 598 deaths, according to official figures. Photo: AFP

Spain ramped up its battle against the coronavirus Saturday, mobilizing 52,000 additional health workers and racing to finish construction of field hospitals as its death toll jumped by a third.

"We must prepare ourselves emotionally and psychologically for very hard days ahead," Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told the nation in a televised address as Spain reported 1,381 deaths, the third-highest in Europe after Italy and Germany.

The number of infections across the country also shot up to 25,496, the health ministry said in a statement, adding that the capital Madrid remains the hardest hit.

"The cases are rising and are going to continue to rise in the coming days," ministry spokeswoman Maria Jose Sierra told journalists, saying nobody knew when the outbreak would peak.

Authorities have called up 52,000 extra workers to help the country's health service as it struggles to contain the virus.

Spain has issued lockdown orders for some 46 million people who are only permitted to leave their homes for essential work, food shopping, medical reasons or to walk the dog. 

Around 2,800 soldiers have been mobilized to disinfect train stations and airports and to bring help to elderly, vulnerable people, said General Miguel Villarroya, chief of the defense staff.

Madrid and Barcelona announced Friday they would set up field hospitals in their biggest exhibition halls to deal with the anticipated growth in the number of patients.

The IFEMA conference center would be fitted with 5,500 hospital beds, part of it dedicated to an intensive care unit, while a section of the Fira de Barcelona center would be similarly equipped, city authorities said. 

Officials have distributed hundreds of thousands of surgical masks, adapted hotels to treat the sick and produced hundreds of thousands of test kits.



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