Spain counts 331 new virus deaths in 24 hours

Spain on Monday counted another 331 new virus deaths, with the daily toll rising by several dozen from its lowest level in more than a month.

The figure lifted the total to 23,521 in Spain, which has suffered the world’s third-highest number of deaths but which on Sunday began easing lockdown conditions, allowing children out to play for the first time in six weeks.

Sunday’s toll had dropped to 288—the lowest 24-hour figure in more than five weeks—giving another positive indication that the virus’ grip on the country was weakening.

Over the same period, 1,831 more people tested positive for the virus, with the health ministry’s emergencies coordinator Fernando Simon saying the evolution of the epidemic in terms of new cases was “very positive”.

Officials believe the epidemic peaked on April 2 when the daily toll hit 950.

Spain’s nearly 47 million people have spent more than six weeks under one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, with only adults authorised to leave home to buy food, medicine or walk the dog.

A first move to ease the restrictions went into force on Sunday when the under-14s were allowed out for the first time to go for a walk, a run or a bike ride accompanied by one parent.

The new rules let them to go out for up to an hour a day within a one-kilometre radius of their homes, with a similar move easing conditions for the rest of the population to take effect from Saturday.

Spain has so far counted more than 210,000 cases of COVID-19, the second-highest figure in the world, although the health ministry only logs cases confirmed by tests.

Until late last week, the government was also including the numbers of those shown to have developed antibodies against the virus.

On Monday, the government began a seroprevalence study involving 60,000 people to collect information on the real number exposed to the virus through analysing blood test data.

Raquel Yotti, head of the Carlos III Health Institute, said the study would allow experts to get a real picture of “the number of people who have been in contact with the virus” and who have developed antibodies.

“It’s important to know the spread of the virus at a national, regional and local level … and to know if it happened at community level and how it may have spread within homes.”

The March 14 lockdown is set to remain in place until at least May 9, with the government mooting further steps to ease the restrictions in the second half of the month.

The number of people who have recovered from the virus now stands at well over 100,000.

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