MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s health minister described a second wave of the coronavirus sweeping the county as “out of control” on Thursday as the government postponed a decision on whether to follow France and other European countries in imposing curfews.
The overall tally of infections rose by 20,986 to 1,026,281 on Thursday, a day after Spain became the first Western European country to record 1 million COVID-19 cases. The death toll stands at 34,521 people.
Authorities failed to agree on curfew measures at a video meeting between regional health chiefs, meaning the debate is set to continue, health minister Salvador Illa told reporters.
He added that Castilla and Leon was so far the only region to formally request such a measure.
But Valencian leader Ximo Puig announced shortly after that his administration was preparing legislation to enforce a regional nighttime curfew until Dec. 9, despite the lack of national consensus.
“We are not going to delay a decision that seems necessary to us,” he said during a televised address. “We still have time to prevent the situation from getting worse.”
A source with Castilla la Mancha’s regional government earlier said its health chief was in favour of a nationwide curfew.
With a two-week partial lockdown of Madrid and surrounding cities coming to an end on Saturday and the contagion rates growing across much of Spain, more needs to be done, Minister Illa said, calling earlier on Thursday for “drastic” measures.
Between March and June, Spaniards lived under severe restrictions, with many virtually confined to their homes, but life had begun to return to normal in most regions as the first wave of the pandemic eased.
But Illa told Onda Cero radio: “The second wave is a reality. In many areas of our country, the epidemic is out of control.”
While daily deaths have been hovering around 100 - a far cry from the peak of nearly 900 registered in late March - hospital admissions have jumped 20% in two weeks, triggering warnings that some non-urgent surgeries may need to be postponed.
Still, in a rare instance of good news for Spain’s battered economy, Germany and England lifted warnings against travel to the tourism-dependent Canary Islands.
Reporting by Inti Landauro, Nathan Allen, Emma Pinedo, Belen Carreno; Writing by Nathan Allen; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Angus MacSwan
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