Europe

Coronavirus: Spanish deaths fall for fourth consecutive day

Medical staff from La Princesa hospital react as neighbours applaud from their balconies in support for healthcare workers on 5 April Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Spain's fall comes after a peak last Thursday, when 950 people died with the virus

The daily number of coronavirus deaths has fallen in Spain for a fourth consecutive day, boosting hopes the country has passed the outbreak's peak.

Monday's increase of 637 deaths means 13,055 have died in total.

The nation has more than 135,000 confirmed cases, the most in Europe, but new infections have been slowing.

In Italy, the number of new infections fell by 1,031 to 1,941 on Monday, but the death toll rose to 636 - more than 100 higher than the previous day.

Slowing infection rates in a number of European countries are raising hope that strict social distancing measures are curbing the spread of Covid-19 - the disease caused by the virus.

On Monday, Austria's chancellor announced plans to start easing some of the restrictions in place because of the pandemic.

There have been almost 1.3 million cases and 70,800 deaths confirmed around the world since the virus emerged in China in December, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

What are the latest Spanish figures?

Monday's figures show an increase of 4,273 new confirmed cases, bringing the national total to 135,032.

Spain's total number of cases is second only to the United States, which has a much larger population.

The country of 47 million people also has the second-highest death toll in the world, behind Italy. But Monday's figure of 637 is the lowest recorded in almost two weeks, since 24 March.

It is a drop from the 674 new deaths confirmed on Sunday. The daily death toll hit a peak of 950 last Thursday.

María José Sierra, deputy head of Spain's health emergency committee, said the pandemic's growth rate appeared to be slowing down "in almost every region" of the country.

Officials plan to widen coronavirus testing to include those without symptoms.

"It is important to know who is contaminated to be able to gradually lift Spanish citizens' lockdown," Foreign Minister Arancha González said in a TV interview.

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Media captionInside the ICU in one of Spain's biggest hospitals

Checkpoints were lifted on Monday at a number of hard-hit towns in the Catalonia region.

Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said at the weekend that some restrictions, including keeping non-essential workers at home, could be lifted after Easter.

Businesses, including shops and restaurants, have been closed since 14 March and residents have been told to stay home and only go outside to carry out essential tasks.

What is happening elsewhere in Europe?

The pandemic has claimed more than 50,000 lives across the continent.

The death toll in Italy is the highest in the world, standing at 16,523.

On Monday, the civil protection ministry reported 636 new deaths. That is 111 higher than Sunday's toll - the lowest since 19 March - but 45 lower than Saturday's.

The number of new infections increased by 1,941, but continued a downward trend.

In Austria, where a total of 220 deaths have been reported, Chancellor Sebastian Kurz announced plans to begin easing some of the restrictions imposed there. If Austrians continued to comply with the current measures, smaller, non-essential shops could be allowed to re-open in just over a week's time, he said.

Meanwhile, the French finance minister warned that the economic contraction this year would most likely be the worst for the country since World War Two.

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Media captionCoronavirus: Quarantined Italian village turned into human laboratory

France reported 833 new deaths in hospitals and nursing homes, bringing the total to 8,911 since 1 March. The daily toll was 315 higher than the previous 24 hours.

Germany's Chancellor, Angela Merkel, said the pandemic represented the biggest challenge the European Union had ever faced. She reiterated that her government was ready to contribute to helping the bloc economically.

In the United Kingdom, Prime Minister Boris Johnson remained in hospital but was in "good spirits", according to a spokesman. The 55-year-old remains "under observation" after being admitted to hospital with persistent symptoms of coronavirus as a precautionary measure on Sunday.

The Department of Health said on Monday that 439 more people had died in hospital after testing positive for coronavirus, taking the total death toll to 5,373.

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