Spain’s coronavirus death count surges above China… as 20,000 flout lockdown laws

On Wednesday the Spanish health ministry announced 738 people had died of the virus in 24 hours, bringing the total to 3,434 ahead of China’s 3,281. The update came after thousands of Spaniards were reported for violating strict rules on movement, with many incurring convictions. Interior Minister Fernando Grande-Marlaska said on Tuesday alone authorities received 20,000 complaints of people ignoring the state of alarm.

He said: “There are still unsupportive people who do not understand the situation we live in.

“There are already criminal convictions for disobedience.”

Anyone caught ignoring the rules amid the state of alarm risks being put behind bars for up to four months.

Mr Grande-Marlaska said 130 people were arrested on suspicion of violating the emergency laws on Tuesday.

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He said to date, 932 arrests have been made “in the face of such unsupportive behaviour”.

“Here we are all responsible for public health,” he warned.

But he stressed that the majority Spaniards were complaint with the new measures.

Spain’s death toll from COVID-19 is second only to Italy, on 6,820.

A Madrid skating rink was turned into a makeshift morgue to help emergency workers deal with the crisis.

Earlier this week Spanish soldiers sent to nursing homes found residents abandoned and some dead in their beds after staff fled.

Spanish medical staff, who themselves account for thousands of infected cases, have taken out lawsuits against the government.

They have complained about a lack of basic protective equipment like masks, scrubs and gloves.

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The Spanish army has asked NATO for ventilators, protective gear and testing kits, Armed Forces Chief Miguel Villarroya said on Wednesday.

Spain is on Day 11 of a 15-day nationwide lockdown which is likely to be extended to 30 days.

Schools, bars, restaurants and most shops are shuttered and social gatherings are banned.

Spain’s 46.6 million people are confined to their homes.

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Mr Grande-Marlaska revealed that three patients who had tested positive for coronavirus had fled hospital.

Two people in the city of Leganes and one in Benidorm walked out of hospital while still suffering symptoms.

European journalists who touch down in Spain to cover the escalating crisis will be guaranteed accommodation and food, Spain’s tourism industry said.

However, Mr Grande-Malaska stressed than any reporters working in the country would have to hold Spanish residency.

He also said there would have to be a justified reason for journalists to come to the country on lockdown.

“We are talking about the right to information, freedom of information and to transmit information,” he said.

“It would have to be evaluated.”

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.

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