Spain coronavirus death toll overtakes China after sharp rise in cases

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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.

A patient, center, is transferred to a medicalised hotel during the COVID-19 outbreak in Madrid, Spain, Tuesday, March 24, 2020. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms. For some it can cause a more serious illness. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)
The coronavirus death toll in Spain has overtaken China's (Picture: AP)

China’s death toll officially stands at 3,285, while the figure in Italy, the country with the most deaths, is 6,820.

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MADRID, SPAIN - MARCH 24: Members of the Military Emergency Unit (UME) are waiting for vans of deceased people for cold storage at the Palacio de Hielo ice rink on March 24, 2020 in Madrid, Spain. Spain plans to continue its quarantine measures at least through April 11. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has spread to at least 182 countries, claiming over 10,000 lives and infecting hundreds of thousands more. (Photo by Carlos Alvarez/Getty Images)
Spain has suffered its highest 24-hour death toll from COVID-19. (Getty)
A graph showing the rise in the number of countries with coronavirus (Picture: PA)
A graph showing the rise in the number of countries with coronavirus (Picture: PA)

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.

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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.

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