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Spain "close to peak" of contagion as COVID-19 cases exceed 17,000

(Xinhua)    09:44, March 20, 2020

MADRID, March 19 (Xinhua) -- Spain is approaching the peak in the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, the country's Minister for Health, Consumer Affairs and Social Services, Salvador Illa, said on Thursday.

Illa's ministry confirmed that the number of COVID-19 infections in Spain rose to 17,147 on Thursday, a 25 percent increase on Wednesday's figure of 13,716.

A total of 767 people have now lost their lives due to the illness in Spain, while 939 are in intensive care and 1,107 have recovered from the disease.

Among the fatalities was a nurse from the Basque Region in northern Spain, who became the first health service worker to fall victim of the infection.

"We are reaching the hardest moments, in which we will see an increase in cases as we close in on the peak" of infections, Illa explained at a press conference.

The minister confirmed that further measures will be taken by the government to make sure that the health system is able to withstand the strain of new cases. Private hospitals have been placed at the disposition of the government, and an extra 30,000 professionals and medical students have also been called in.

Meanwhile, the Health Ministry is carrying out an inventory of the manufacturers of vital protective equipment.

Fernando Simon, director of the Health Ministry's Coordination Center for Health Alerts and Emergencies, said that "the number of cases is rising every day, but this does not mean things are going badly. Bit by bit we are getting closer to the maximum peak of infections."

"We understand that the rate of growth will then start to fall, but we have to maintain the tension, assuring that people follow the measures as efficiently as possible," Simon said, stressing the need for "social distancing."

Thursday is the fifth day of the 15-day "state of alarm," which was declared by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday night and has imposed a virtual lockdown on the country. Both Sanchez and other government ministers have implied that the "state of alarm" is likely to be extended beyond the original 15-day period.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: He Zhuoyan, Bianji)

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