Spain’s coronavirus death toll overtook that of China on Wednesday, rising to 3,434 after another 738 people died as Madrid announced a multi-million-euro deal with Beijing for critical supplies.
The spike in fatalities means that across the globe, only Italy — with 7,503 deaths — now has a higher death toll than Spain. In China, where the virus emerged late last year, the COVID-19 epidemic has claimed 3,281 lives.
The latest figures were announced as Spain entered the 11th day of an unprecedented lockdown to try and rein in the deadly coronavirus outbreak that has now infected 47,610 people, the health ministry said.
Deputy Prime Minister Carmen Calvo, who has been in hospital since Monday, has tested positive for the virus and is improving, the government said. Two other ministers in Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez’s government are infected.
The surge in numbers has brought the medical system to the brink of collapse, with Spain struggling with a lack of medical supplies for testing, treatment and the protection of frontline workers, and a growing number of cases among healthcare personnel with more than 5,400 infected.
To address the shortages, Health Minister Salvador Illa said the government had inked a major deal with China. Worth some 432 million euros ($467 million), the deal will cover 550 million masks, 5.5 million rapid test kits, 950 respirators and 11 million pairs of gloves, he told a televised news conference. “We have secured entire production chains (in China) which will be working solely for the Spanish government,” he said.
The supplies will be delivered “on a staggered basis, every week, with the first — a major delivery — arriving at the end of this week,” he said. He also said Spain would continue producing its own materials on a national level.