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Spain overtakes China coronavirus toll with 3,434 deaths

MADRID: Spain's coronavirus death toll overtook that of China yesterday, rising to 3,434 after 738 people died over the past 24 hours, the government said.

Only Italy, which has over 6,800 deaths, has a higher death toll than Spain. In China, where the virus emerged last year, around 3,300 people have died.

The deaths came as Spain entered the 11th day of a lockdown to try and rein in the Covid-19 epidemic that has now infected more than 47,600 people, the Health Ministry said.

As the authorities stepped up testing, the number of cases showed a 20 per cent increase on the figures for Tuesday, while the death toll showed a 27 per cent rise over the same period.

Officials warned that this week would be particularly bad.

"We are approaching the peak," the ministry's emergencies coordinator said.

The Madrid region has suffered the brunt of the epidemic with at least 14,590 infections.

BRINK OF COLLAPSE

With hospitals on the brink of collapse, troops have set up a field hospital in Madrid's vast Ifema exhibition centre that has 1,500 beds but could be expanded to take in up to 5,500 people - making it the largest hospital in Spain.

With the funeral services overwhelmed, officials have commandeered the Palacio de Hielo ice skating rink to serve as a temporary morgue.

France became the fifth country to report more than 1,000 deaths on Tuesday. The virus killed another 240 people, bringing the total to 1,100.

A government body has now suggested the national lockdown imposed last week for an initial 15 days should last at least six weeks.

A statement by the council also said the lockdown was the only really efficient strategy at the moment and "needs to be strictly implemented". - AFP, REUTERS

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