Spain registers highest new coronavirus count since start of pandemic

Spain's 14-day infection rate rose to 280 per 100,000 people from 265. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

MADRID/ROME (BLOOMBERG, XINHUA, REUTERS) - Spain diagnosed a record number of new coronavirus cases for a second day as infections continued to increase during the festive period.

New cases identified over the previous 24 hours climbed by 10,217, compared with 9,860 on Wednesday (Dec 30). Spain reported 148 deaths in the past 24 hours while the 14-day infection rate rose to 280 per 100,000 people from 265.

Spain has imposed curfews and restrictions on the size of meetings, while leaving regional authorities to set the specific conditions for the populations under their control. Festive gatherings in the capital Madrid are limited to six people.

Meanwhile, Italians spent an unusual New Year's Eve and New Year's Day staying at home as they were bound by a curfew imposed between 10pm and 7am from Dec 31 to Jan 3 to curb the spread of the virus.

People are prohibited to go out unless for essential tasks such as work, health, emergency, and for food shopping.

Italy reported 555 coronavirus-related deaths on Thursday against 575 the day before, the health ministry said, while the daily tally of new infections rose to 23,477 from 16,202.

There were 186,004 swab tests carried out in the past day, the ministry said, up from a previous 169,045.

Italy has seen an official total of 74,159 Covid-19 deaths since its outbreak came to light on Feb 21, the highest toll in Europe and the fifth highest in the world.

A report on Wednesday by national statistics bureau ISTAT which looked at deaths from all causes since the start of the pandemic suggested the number of coronavirus victims in Italy is probably higher than indicated by official data.

Italy has also reported 2.107 million cases to date, the health ministry said.

Patients in hospital with Covid-19 stood at 23,151 on Thursday, down by 415 from the day before. There were 202 new admissions to intensive care units, compared with 175 on Wednesday.

The current number of intensive care patients rose by 27 - the first increase for at least a month - to 2,555, reflecting those who died or were discharged after recovery.

When Italy's second wave of the epidemic was accelerating fast in the first half of November, hospital admissions were rising by about 1,000 per day, while intensive care occupancy was increasing by about 100 per day.

In order to avoid mass travels in the traditional holiday season - which epidemiologists fear would lead to a third pandemic wave in January - the central government has introduced tighter rules to restrain people's movements from Dec 19.

But the toughest restrictions are placed on Dec 25-26 and between Dec 31 and Jan 3. They included a ban on travel between cities, between regions, and within the cities, as well as a ban on any gathering, party, and celebration indoor, and the closure of non-essential shops.

The office of Italy's Extraordinary Commissioner for the Coronavirus Emergency Domenico Arcuri said 14,813 people were administered the Covid-19 vaccine as at Thursday.

This figure comprised 8,090 women and 6,723 men, most of them were doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers.

The country kicked off the vaccination campaign on Dec 27. Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Wednesday that Italy plans to vaccinate 10 to 15 million of its roughly 60 million citizens against Covid-19 by April 2021.

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