Spain Reports 605 Coronavirus Deaths, Lowest Since March 24

(Bloomberg) --

Spain reported the fewest number of new coronavirus deaths in more than two weeks on Friday, yet remains one of the epicenters of the crisis in Europe.

There were 4,576 new infections in the 24 hours through Friday, pushing total cases to more than 157,000, according to Health Ministry data. The death toll rose by 605 to 15,843, the smallest increase since March 24.

Spaniards are settling in for at least another two weeks of a strict lockdown that only allows them to go outside to buy products from supermarkets and pharmacies. Lawmakers in Spain’s Parliament on Thursday approved the government’s proposal to extend the state of emergency through April 25. That’s likely to be extended again, Sanchez said Thursday.

The empty streets are particularly notable in Spain this Easter weekend. Normally, avenues and streets throughout the country would be packed with onlookers observing religious processions. Members of religious brotherhoods carry heavy wooden statues of Jesus and other figures slowly down streets, followed by dozens of robed and hooded penitents, as they are called.

Holy Week celebrations in places such as Seville, in southern Spain, are also a huge draw for tourists. But the tourism sector, which contributes more than 10% to Spain’s economic output, has been shuttered as millions of people worldwide are ordered to stay home.

Thousands of workers in the tourism sector, many of whom work on short-term contracts, haven’t been hired this season. Thousands of other workers have been fired. Jobless claims rose in Spain by a record 302,265 people in March, the highest monthly increase on record.

Sanchez and his ministers say the country’s economic “hibernation,” as they call it, is painful but insist it’s working to slow the spread of the deadly virus. Spain has the world’s second-highest coronavirus death toll after Italy.

The government has pledged billions to ensure the country’s tens of thousands of small- and medium-sized business have enough liquidity to make it through the crisis. But national fiscal measures might not be enough, so European Union institutions have stepped up as well.

Spanish Economy Minister Nadia Calvino welcomed the 540-billion euro package of measures that she and other European Union economy and finance ministers negotiated late on Thursday.

EURO-AREA REACT: EU Fiscal Package Helps Italy, Spain and ECB

The package “important for highly-indebted countries, like Italy and Spain, because it creates space to deliver a stronger fiscal response,” Bloomberg Economics economists Jamie Rush and Maeva Cousin wrote in a research report. “Easier risk sharing also takes pressure off the European Central Bank, which has had to backstop sovereign borrowing costs and could now face a lower hurdle to provide emergency support.”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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