Spain hit by record COVID-19 deaths

A healthcare worker looks on as ambulances get ready to leave the Gregorio Marañon Hospital on March 30, 2020 in Madrid, Spain. Spain ordered all non-essential workers to stay home for two weeks to help slow the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. ( Xaume Olleros/Getty Image )

Spain’s coronavirus deaths jumped by a record number Tuesday as the country’s medical system strained to care for its tens of thousands of infected patients, and the World Health Organization warned that the COVID-19 pandemic was far from over in Asia.

In the United States, where the spread of the coronavirus has been accelerating, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo begged for health care reinforcements, saying up to 1 million more workers were needed.

Spain and Italy are still struggling to avoid the collapse of their health systems, with Spain saying hospitals in at least half of its 17 regions are at or very near their ICU bed limits and more than 10,000 medical workers are among the country’s reported 94,417 infections.

To cope, dozens of hotels across Spain have been converted into recovery rooms for patients not in serious condition, and authorities are building makeshift field hospitals in sports centers, libraries and exhibition halls. So far they have manged to add 23,000 beds.

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Overnight, Spain recorded 849 new deaths, the highest daily toll since the pandemic hit the southern European country. It has now claimed the lives of 8,189 people in Spain, forcing Madrid to open a second temporary morgue this week after an ice rink pressed into service last week become overwhelmed.

Authorities are shifting ventilating machines to regions with the highest number of ICU patients and moving the patients themselves between regions “has not been ruled out,” said Dr. María José Sierra of Spain’s health emergencies center.

Deaths climbed rapidly in the United States, which was poised Tuesday to overtake China’s reported virus death toll of 3,300. But experts say all numbers reported by governments and states in this pandemic are faulty in different ways, due to the lack of testing, mild virus cases that are missed or the determination of some governments to try to seize and shape their pandemic narrative.

“This is going to be a long-term battle and we cannot let down our guard,” said Dr Takeshi Kasai, WHO’s regional director for the Western Pacific. “We need every country to keep responding according to their local situation.”

Hard-hit Italy and Spain now account for more than half of the 38,000 COVID-19 deaths reported worldwide and the United States has the most confirmed cases at 164,610, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.