Spain orders all non-essential workers to stay at home for two weeks

Tightening of national lockdown comes as record single-day death toll of 832 is announced

The Spanish government has tightened up its national lockdown, ordering all non-essential workers to stay at home for the next two weeks in a bid to halt the spread of the coronavirus and relieve pressure on the country’s overstretched hospitals.

The measure, which comes two weeks after the prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, declared a state of emergency, was announced hours after Spanish health authorities said the outbreak appeared to be peaking in parts of the country.

In a televised address on Saturday evening, Sánchez ordered all those in non-key jobs to stay at home from Monday, saying the “extraordinarily tough” measures were needed as the county intensified its efforts to contain the pandemic.

Sánchez also warned that the EU needed to react to the global health crisis in a united and decisive fashion to safeguard its own future.

“It’s Europe’s time to act. Europe is at risk,” he said.

Earlier on Saturday, Fernando Simón, the head of Spain’s centre for health emergencies, said that the situation in some regions appeared to be improving even as the country reported another record single-day death toll of 832.

The number of Covid-19 cases in the country rose from 64,059 on Friday to 72,248 on Saturday, and the number of dead now stands at 5,690.

Between Thursday and Friday, 769 people died from the disease.

“We’re getting there,” Simón told a press conference on Saturday afternoon.

“We don’t know exactly when we’ll get confirmation, but we’re getting close to the peak of the curve that we’re studying so anxiously. In some parts of the country, they probably may even have passed it – but we need to be cautious with preliminary information.”

But Simón also warned that reaching a peak would not ease the pressure on Spain’s overstretched intensive care units (ICUs), adding they were predicted to pass beyond full capacity in less than a week’s time.

“We still have a big problem when it comes to the overloading of our ICUs,” he said.

“Patients who pick up the disease today may need a bed in an ICU in seven to 10 days. That means that we’re still seeing a lag between the control of transmission and the saturation of ICUs. It also means they’re going to be overloaded by the end of next week or the beginning of the following week.”

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