Spain enforced even tighter stay-at-home rules, as the country became the nation with the third-highest number of reported infections in the world.
MADRID — Spain enforced even tighter stay-athome rules Monday for its 47 million people, as the country overtook China as the nation with the thirdhighest number of reported infections in the world, after the United States and Italy.
Bells tolled in Madrid’s deserted central square, and flags were lowered in a day of mourning as Spain raced to build field hospitals to treat an onslaught of coronavirus patients.
With a population of 47 million people to China’s 1.4 billion, Spain saw its official tally of infections climb past 85,000.
It also reported more than 800 new deaths, for an overall toll of more than 7,300.
Experts say those figures — and those in every other country — are much lower than the true numbers, because of limited testing, counting irregularities and mild cases that have been missed.
Many coronavirus deaths in Spain and Italy that happen at home or at nursing homes are not counted.
Italy reported that more than 800 people had died in the past day, bringing the country’s death toll to nearly 11,600. It added over 4,000 new infections, but also a record 1,590 cured.
“We are saving lives by staying at home, by maintaining social distance, by traveling less and by closing schools,” said Dr. Luca Richeldi, a lung specialist.
WHO’s emergencies chief said the caseloads in Italy and Spain might be leveling off.
“It is our fervent hope that that is the case,” Dr. Michael Ryan said. “But we have to now push the virus down, and that will not happen by itself.”
At least six of Spain’s 17 regions were at their limit of intensive care unit beds, and three more were close to it, authorities said. Crews of workers were frantically building more field hospitals.
Nearly 15% of all those infected in Spain, almost 13,000 people, are health care workers, hurting hospitals’ efforts to help the multitudes of people gasping for breath.
But the new stricter measures on peoples’ movement, which confused many Spaniards, came under attack from business leaders who say the government is hurting the economy beyond repair, and opposition parties who accuse it of improvising in its response to the outbreak.
The government’s decision to impose a two-week halt effective Monday to all nonessential economic activity came even as authorities asserted that the previous two weeks of confinement were starting to pay off with a slower pace of the pandemic’s expansion,
The president of Spain’s main business association, CEOE, warned that the stricter measures would create “a very grave economic problem that can lead to a social problem” through potential job and income losses.
Three-quarters of a million people around the world have become infected and more than 37,000 have died, according to a running count kept by Johns Hopkins University. Nearly 165,000 have recovered.
Firefighters work on a new temporary hospital setup Monday at the Guinardo Municipal Sports Centre to treat patients infected with the novel coronavirus, in Barcelona.