Spain records smallest rate of increase in coronavirus infections since start of crisis

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Spain on Sunday morning saw both the smallest increase in death toll from the coronavirus in nine days and the smallest increase in the number of infections since the outbreak first began, health officials said.

The death toll in Spain stood at 12,418 people Sunday, up by 674 within the past 24 hours, marking the lowest increase in fatalities in nine days, the country’s health ministry said.

Spain has recorded at least 130,759 confirmed cases, a five percent jump from the 124,736 the day before, which is the lowest daily percentage increase in infections since the start of the health crisis.

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Over the weekend, Spain reached a new grim milestone, recording the second-highest number of infections and deaths from COVID-19 worldwide. On Saturday, Spain overtook Italy as the most-infected nation in Europe, second in the world only to the United States.

At least 15,362 in Italy have died from COVID-19, a death toll surpassing all other countries in the world.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Saturday that the country was “close to passing the peak of infections," according to the BBC. He extended the nationwide lockdown by two weeks while public health officials seek masks for the general public once measures are lifted.

Undertakers take a moment while a priest and family, not seen, pray during the burial of an elderly victim of the COVID-19 at the Almudena cemetery in Madrid, Spain, Saturday March 28, 2020. In Spain, where stay-at-home restrictions have been in place for nearly two weeks, the official number of deaths is increasing daily. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Olmo Calvo)

Undertakers take a moment while a priest and family, not seen, pray during the burial of an elderly victim of the COVID-19 at the Almudena cemetery in Madrid, Spain, Saturday March 28, 2020. In Spain, where stay-at-home restrictions have been in place for nearly two weeks, the official number of deaths is increasing daily. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Olmo Calvo)

Sánchez said he would then begin a "progressive return to a new normal," implementing new public hygiene measures and ways of detecting a possible renewed spread of infection.

Heeding the advice of the World Health Organization, countries including Austria, the Czech Republic, Israel and Turkey have required all residents to wear a mask in most public places.

SPAIN NOW SECOND HIGHEST NUMBER OF CORONAVIRUS CASES, DEATHS IN THE WORLD

The area surrounding Madrid has been the most hard-hit by the virus in the country. The Spanish military was called in to help retirement homes in the capital city last month, with soldiers finding elderly residents “dead and abandoned” in their beds, according to the country’s defense ministry

Last week, Spain’s Princess Maria Teresa became the first royal to die from coronavirus.

Sánchez, whose own wife tested positive for the virus last month, pleaded with Europe to join together in its financial response to the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the European Union continues to stall in rolling out so-called “coronabonds” despite urging from Spain, Italy, France and other nations that have fallen into debt dealing with the public health crisis.

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"Europe must not fail this time," he said Saturday. "It is clear that the Spanish economy will have to go into debt and we will have to take resources from future generations to tackle the pandemic."