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Country records 619 deaths in past 24 hours as some sectors prepare return to work

The number of new coronavirus infections in Spain have fallen to a record low since the outbreak began, as Europes worst-hit country by confirmed cases braced for the reopening of some sectors of its economy this week.

Deaths increased slightly to 619 in the past 24 hours and were likely to exceed 17,000 on Sunday, but Spanish health ministry figures showed new cases had grown by 2.6% over the same period the lowest rate since the pandemic took off in the country a month ago and caseloads started increasing by one-fifth every day.

Evidence that a strict lockdown, in place since 14 March, was working came as some factory and construction workers prepared to return to work on Monday, a call that has drawn criticism in some quarters.

Quick guide

What are coronavirus symptoms and should I go to a doctor?

What is Covid-19?

It is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that has never been encountered before. Like other coronaviruses, it has come from animals. The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared it a pandemic.

What are the symptoms this coronavirus causes?

According to the WHO, the most common symptoms of Covid-19 are fever, tiredness and a dry cough. Some patients may also have a runny nose, sore throat, nasal congestion and aches and pains or diarrhoea. Some people report losing their sense of taste and/or smell. About 80% of people who get Covid-19 experience a mild case about as serious as a regular cold and recover without needing any special treatment.

About one in six people, the WHO says, become seriously ill. The elderly and people with underlying medical problems like high blood pressure, heart problems or diabetes, or chronic respiratory conditions, are at a greater risk of serious illness from Covid-19.

In the UK, the National health Service (NHS) has identified the specific symptoms to look for as experiencing either:

  • a high temperature – you feel hot to touch on your chest or back
  • a new continuous cough – this means youve started coughing repeatedly

As this is viral pneumonia, antibiotics are of no use. The antiviral drugs we have against flu will not work, and there is currently no vaccine. Recovery depends on the strength of the immune system.

Should I go to the doctor if I have a cough?

Medical advice varies around the world – with many countries imposing travel bans and lockdowns to try and prevent the spread of the virus. In many place people are being told to stay at home rather than visit a doctor of hospital in person. Check with your local authorities.

In the UK, NHS advice is that anyone with symptoms should stay at home for at least 7 days. If you live with other people, they should stay at home for at least 14 days, to avoid spreading the infection outside the home.

How many people have been affected?

Chinas national health commission confirmed human-to-human transmission in January. As of 6 April, more than 1.25m people have been infected in more than 180 countries, according to the Johns Hopkins University Center for Systems Science and Engineering.

There have been over 69,500 deaths globally. Just over 3,200 of those deaths have occurred in mainland China. Italy has been worst affected, with over 15,800 fatalities, and there have been over 12,600 deaths in Spain. The US now has more confirmed cases than any other country – more than 335,000. Many of those who have died had underlying health conditions, which the coronavirus complicated.

More than 264,000 people are recorded as having recovered from the coronavirus.

In a letter to the prime minister, Pedro Snchez, Catalonias regional president asked to see the medical and epidemiological advice on which the decision was taken. Quim Torra also suggested that the move would provoke a rise in infections and a situation of collapse for Catalonias health system.

Speaking after a videoconference with the leaders of Spains autonomous regions on Sunday afternoon, Snchez said the country remained firmly in lockdown despite the easing of restrictions on non-essential workers. Those returning to work were being advised to maintain social distancing and face masks will be handed out in metro and rail stations.

I want to be very clear, he said. We are not entering a phase of de-escalation. The state of emergency is still in force and so is the lockdown. The only thing that has come to an end is the two-week extreme economic hibernation period.

The prime minister said anyone who was ill or pregnant, or showing even the mildest symptoms, should stay at home. General confinement will remain the rule for the next two weeks and the only people allowed out will be those going to authorised jobs or making authorised purchases, he said.

Snchez said there could be a progressive and very cautious relaxation of the lockdown in two weeks time at the earliest but only if current trends continued.

The World Health Organization has said there could be a deadly resurgence of the coronavirus if countermeasures are lifted too soon, while one of the Spanish governments own experts has said he thought it would have been sensible to keep non-essential workers at home for longer.

Snchez has warned the lockdown is likely to be extended beyond 26 April. Under the rules of confinement, people are allowed to leave their homes only to got to work or to buy food or medicine. He also called for unity in the face of what he termed an unprecedented total war and urged a de-escalation of political tensions. We are dealing with a completely new situation I do not have nor will I have any enemy but this virus.

Optimism over Spains slowing infection rates was tempered by continuing speculation the actual number of Covid-19 deaths in the country may be much higher than official figures.

Recently released data from judicial authorities in Madrid, for example, suggests that 6,600 more people than usual died in the last two weeks of March, compared with the official tally of 3,500 Covid-19 deaths in the region.

Mainland China reported 99 new cases on Saturday, of which all but two were imported, and the countrys national health commission said there were no new deaths.

The two local cases were in Heilongjiang, Chinas northern-most province, which borders Russia. Of the 97 imported cases recorded, 43 were in the city of Shanghai. There were no new cases reported in Hubei, the province where the outbreak is believed to have begun and was officially announced 103 days ago.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/12/spain-eases-lockdown-as-rate-of-coronavirus-infections-hits-new-low