Spain has suffered another record-breaking day of coronavirus deaths, with 950 people killed by the disease in the last 24 hours.
It marks the country’s third consecutive day of record death totals, with 849 dead on Tuesday, 864 killed Wednesday and 950 dying between Wednesday and today.
The new toll also brings the country’s total fatalities above 10,000, rising from 9,053 on Wednesday to 10,003 on Thursday.
The number of new cases also increased by 8,102 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total from 102,136 to 110,238, but marks the lowest percentage increase in cases yet – in a sign that lockdown measures put in place almost three weeks ago are working.
That prompted Health Minister Salvador Ella to declare that the country has reached the peak of the infection curve, while still warning of ‘many difficult weeks ahead.’
A rise of 8,102 is a 7.9 per cent increase on the previous day’s figures, beating the previous daily low of 8.1 per cent which came on Monday.
The rate of increase was 42.7 per cent on March 13, the day before the lockdown was put in place, and has gone as high as 70 per cent during the crisis.
Reducing the rate of infection is key to beating the virus, because each day of increases compounds on the number of cases the day before.
That means a 40 per cent increase in cases early on in the outbreak may only mean a few hundred more people getting sick, but the same percentage increase later on can mean tens of thousands of people getting sick in one go.
Those sudden increases are what lead to healthcare systems becoming overwhelmed, which in turn increases the rate at which people die as key equipment such as ventilators runs out.
While Spain may have reached the peak of the infection curve, deaths are expected to keep rising as those new infections filter through into already-crowded hospitals.
As many as a third of Spain’s intensive care units are already at capacity, meaning those who develop severe symptoms have nowhere to go.
Speaking on Thursday, Mr Ella said: ‘I’m aware that when we speak about the number of deaths, there are no positive figures. But allow me to offer you at least a glimmer of hope.
‘The data shows us that the numbers have stabilised and we have achieved the first objective which is to reach the peak of the curve and we are beginning the slowing down phase.
‘However, because of the very nature of the pandemic, we still have many difficult weeks ahead of us.’
The figures were published as the World Health Organization revealed that 95 per cent of people who have died in Europe have been over the age of 60, while warning that young people are not immune from the virus.
Dr. Hans Kluge said age is not the only risk factor for getting a severe case of the virus that has put billions under lockdown and upended the world economy.
‘The very notion that COVID-19 only affects older people is factually wrong,’ he said at an online news conference in Copenhagen. ‘Young people are not invincible.’
Those comments echoed similar statements from WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The U.N. health agency says 10% to 15% of people under 50 with the disease have moderate or severe cases.
‘Severe cases of the disease have been seen in people in their teens or 20s, with many requiring intensive care and some unfortunately passing away,’ Kluge said.
Meanwhile the EU has insisted that Europe will have the drugs needed to help fight the virus after countries including France warned that stockpiles are running low.
Bloc industry chief Thierry Breton said Thursday that pharmaceutical companies are doubling their outputs to address shortages caused when chemical suppliers in China shut down as the virus rampaged across the country.
The coronavirus pandemic has placed a huge strain on hospitals in Italy, Spain, France, and elsewhere in Europe as intensive care units fill up with tens of thousands of patients suffering the same illness.
Hospital executives and doctors of nine European countries said in an open letter on Wednesday they only had up to two weeks worth of supplies of some medicines and urged greater European collaboration.
‘We foresaw there would be tensions over a number of medicines, notably those associated to intensive care treatment,’ Breton told France Inter radio.
‘Industry players have been summoned. Today, they are doubling production and I think we’re going to be able to address the situation,’ he said, without elaborating.
Many countries around the world rely on China, the source of the outbreak, for drug ingredients and now find themselves grappling with how to avoid shortages.
France has said 40 per cent of its drug ingredients are imported from China, where the coronavirus forced the closure of factories early in the year. They are only now beginning to reopen.
EU documents show that barely a month before Europe scrambled to find masks, ventilators and testing kits, national governments were telling Brussels their healthcare systems were ready and there was no need to order more stocks.
Officials with the European federation of pharmaceutical industries (EFPIA) were not immediately reachable for comment.
Doctors in France, which became the fourth country to pass the 4,000 coronavirus deaths threshold on Wednesday, have said levels of morphine and antibiotics, among other drugs, are running alarmingly low.
France’s drug safety regulator said earlier this month stocks of anaesthetic drug Propofol, manufactured by Germany’s Fresenius, were running low and new supplies would not be available in France until mid-April.
French doctors have also cited Pfizer’s curare as another drug they need more of.
The head of the World Health Organization voiced deep concern on Wednesday about the rapid escalation and global spread of COVID-19 cases from the new coronavirus, which has now reached 205 countries and territories.
Credit: DAILY MAIL