Spain reports more than 23,000 new COVID-19 cases since Friday

MADRID (Reuters) – Spain has registered more than 23,000 new COVID-19 cases since Friday, health emergency chief Fernando Simon told a news conference on Monday, suggesting the infection rate had declined slightly from an Aug. 21 peak.

Health ministry data showed 2,489 new cases were diagnosed in the past 24 hours, bringing the total since the onset of the pandemic to 462,858.

With the new academic year fast approaching and Spain registering the highest number of cases in western Europe, Simon sought to assuage fears that schools could turn into vectors for mass contagion.

“If the appropriate safety measures are applied, the probability of transmission is negligible,” he said.

Since bringing the first wave largely under control through a strict lockdown that ended in June, Spain has been hit by a sharp resurgence of infections through the summer as measures were relaxed and mass testing began.

On Aug. 21, daily infections hit nearly 10,000, their highest level since the peak of the epidemic in late March. They have come down to about 9,000 to 8,000 per day last week, the health ministry’s retroactively updated data showed.

Nearly 97,000 cases have been detected in the past two weeks, with Madrid and the Basque Country the hardest hit regions.

Hospital occupancy in Madrid is around 16% and rising, compared with a national average of 6%, Simon said.

Still, he emphasized that the country was in far better shape than during the epidemic’s first peak, when the health service was in danger of being overwhelmed and intensive-care units were filled to capacity.

Five people died in the past day, bringing Spain’s total death toll to 29,094, ministry data showed.

Daily deaths, which tend to lag spikes in new cases by several weeks, have increased lately to levels last seen in June, but remain well below the late March peak of nearly 900.

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