MADRID (BLOOMBERG) - Spain reported the most new coronavirus cases and fatalities in almost a week, a day after the government secured parliamentary approval to extend a state of emergency through May 9.
There were 4,635 new infections in the 24 hours through Thursday (April 23), taking the total to 213,024, according to Health Ministry data. The number of deaths rose by 440, compared to Wednesday's increase of 435, to 22,157. Almost 90,000 have recovered from the disease in the world's most extensive outbreak behind the United States.
Parliament on Wednesday authorised the government to extend the state of emergency for two more weeks. Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez signalled that some rules may be eased in the next phase, as the trend of new cases and deaths has largely stabilised. Still, any easing would happen slowly and caution is paramount, he said.
The complexity of the balancing act faced by the administration - trying to contain the spread while also getting people back to work - is compounded by the fact that it is working with what would would appear, at times, to be deficient data on deaths and contagion.
Local radio Cadena Ser reported this week that 6,800 elderly people died in Spanish nursing homes with symptoms linked to the coronavirus yet not recorded as such, citing data from 17 regional administrations that the central government has yet to publish.
The New York Times reported this week that Spain has the highest number of unexplained "excess deaths" not attributed to the virus among 11 countries and cities it studied.
Even under the state of emergency, Spanish law doesn't require a coronavirus test be performed post-mortem when the dead have clear Covid-19 symptoms. Funeral homes estimate that many virus deaths are going unreported in some regions, according to the National Association of Funeral Services trade group.
Having large numbers of unreported infections increases the risk of the outbreak reigniting once confinement is ended, a top concern of the government.
A first step to ease confinement will be taken at the weekend, when children will be allowed out for walks accompanied by an adult. But while the government made three different announcements in recent days about relaxing rules for children, it has still to flesh out most of the details.