Spain’s coronavirus death toll has passed China’s and is now the second highest in the world.
In total 3,434 people have died in Spain from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, the health ministry said on Wednesday.
It recorded 738 deaths in 24 hours, the most casualties in a single day since the outbreak began.
China’s death toll officially stands at 3,285, while the figure in Italy, the country with the most deaths, is 6,820.
Nurses and doctors demanded action on Tuesday after Spain reported its sharpest daily increase in coronavirus cases. About 14% of the nearly 40,000 infections are among health workers.
Nursing union SATSE said Madrid’s hospitals were on “the verge of collapse” and needed urgent support, while a doctors’ union said it had filed a lawsuit demanding protective equipment within 24 hours.
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The capital’s Palacio de Hielo mall, home to an Olympic-sized ice rink, began operating as a makeshift mortuary after authorities said facilities were unable to cope.
Health emergency chief Fernando Simon attributed the nearly 14% infection rate among medical staff to the limited availability of protective equipment and several early clusters of the virus occurring in hospitals.
He said pressure on intensive care units would continue even after transmission of the virus among the general population had peaked.
Madrid’s AMYTS doctors’ union said it had filed a lawsuit to force the regional health authority to deliver scrubs, masks and goggles to hospitals and other health centres. A spokesman for the authority declined to comment.
Madrid long accounted for around half of Spain’s coronavirus cases but data published on Tuesday showed the capital now had just under a third of the total, a sign the epidemic is spreading throughout the country.