Madrid, Mar 28 (efe-epa).- All non-essential workers in Spain must stay home for the next two weeks, prime minister Pedro Sanchez announced on Saturday, as the government extends measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus throughout the country.
At a cabinet meeting on Sunday, the government will approve the “exceptional” measures ahead of the Easter celebrations, known in Spain as Holy Week, that start on Apr. 5. The new restrictions will be in place until at least Apr. 9.
“We are doing this now because we’re about to enter the Easter holidays, so we can more aggressively cut down on social contacts and, therefore, hospital admissions and the pressure on Intensive Care Units,” Pedro Sanchez told a press conference.
The new restrictions were announced after authorities confirmed the deaths of 832 coronavirus patients in the previous 24 hours, a record daily death toll in the country.
Although the rate of new infections was slowing, a peak in ICU patients would not arrive until late next week.
Already the second deadliest global hotspot after Italy, Spain’s health ministry said the total number of deaths now stood at 5,960. Some 769 Covid-19 patients died between Thursday and Friday.
However, the number of new infections continued to stabilize, according to Fernando Simon, the head of Spain’s public health emergency department.
But he warned that there could still be undetected cases in the community and that it was not yet possible to confirm whether the country had hit its peak infection rate.
“Several indicators suggest the disease is stabilizing. But this is preliminary information. Some areas of the country may have already reached the peak, but at a national level we cannot confirm anything.”
Simon said, however, that the main concern at the moment was the situation in the country’s intensive care units, some of which are already near full capacity.
“A patient who becomes infected today will not need an ICU bed until between seven to 10 days from now,” he said.
ICU cases, he added, will therefore not reach a peak until the end of next week “at the earliest.”
There were 4,575 people in ICU across the country at the moment.
Another concern for the Spanish government is the number of health workers who have contracted Covid-19, which is 32 percent more than in Italy, the deadliest hotpot.
Officials attributed it, in part, to the level of exposure professionals had to patients in Spain.
As of Friday, more than 9,000 health workers were known to have contracted the disease.
Simon said most of those had light symptoms.
There were 8,189 additional coronavirus cases reported on Saturday, a 12.8 percent jump that brought the overall tally since the outbreak began to 72,248, lower than the 14 percent increase observed the previous day. Some 54,000 of those cases are still active.
Almost 3,000 people recovered in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 12,285, a recovery rate of 17 percent.
Spain is the fourth worst-hit nation in the world in terms of coronavirus cases overall after China, Italy and the United States.