SPAIN’S government is just about to distribute 18.5 million masks to all regional governments in the country – the 15 on the mainland and the four off it, including the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla which border Morocco.
So far, the latter two have not been as badly hit by the virus as the rest of the country – only one death has been reported in each.
In addition to the masks, a total of 16.5 million pairs of surgical gloves are due to be delivered.
Overall, this latest distribution will double the amount of protective gear handed out to the regions since the week before quarantine started, and comes in response to widespread pleas for safety equipment from hospitals, health centres, care homes, police, private security firms now working in supermarkets, and other key workers who are most at risk of contagion.
The safety equipment shortage is a global one – the last pandemic of this extent has been more than 100 years ago, during the outbreak of the so-called Spanish ‘Flu just after World War I ended – meaning no government or health authority in Europe, the Americas, and most of Asia and Oceania has had to meet such a high demand for protective gear.
In Spain, though, 2.2 million sets of masks and gloves have been delivered in just one day.
At this evening’s press conference – which will be via video – the government is expected to announce an extension to the lockdown from the original proposed end date of April 11, on the basis that it is ‘better to be safe than sorry’ and that ‘releasing’ the public from quarantine too early will undo all the good work that this has helped produce.
The better news is starting to creep through, albeit slowly – whilst registering some of its highest daily death numbers of the crisis this week, the eastern region of the Comunidad Valenciana has just announced that more patients are now completely cured than those who have died.
For this reason, regional health minister Ana Barceló urges everyone to keep plugging away at the confinement.
So far, cases of Coronavirus in Spain have reached almost 118,000, and the death toll is just under 11,000, beaten only by Italy at nearly 14,000, although this is rising in other countries – France is up to 5,400 and the next-highest mortality rate in Europe is in the UK, with 2,921 deaths.
But these grim figures are only part of the picture: Out of the 117,710 cases recorded in Spain as at the time of publication, a total of 30,513 had been completely cured.
They include several politicians – former Madrid regional government leader Esperanza Aguirre, and her husband; its current leader Isabel Díaz Ayuso; Spain’s minister for equality, Irene Montero, and Catalunya regional president Quim Torra.
Others even include a 98-year-old man from a nursing home in Sevilla, and a woman aged 101 from Biescas in the Pyrénéen province of Huesca, Aragón, as reported here.