Spaniards soaked up the sun this weekend as figures released by the country’s Ministry of Health on Sunday revealed just 164 new deaths from Covid-19 in the past 24 hours, the lowest number in six weeks.
The number of deaths since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in the country stands at 25,264, while there have been 217,466 cases.
“As sad as it is to speak about the deaths, the increase of 0.7% from the previous day is a good number,” said Fernando Simón, Spain’s Director for Health Emergencies.
Speaking at the government’s daily coronavirus technical briefing, Simón noted a “clear decrease” in hospital and intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, and just a 0.39% rise in new infections since Saturday.
Spain is gradually beginning its de-escalation from the strictest lockdown rules in Europe, with adults allowed outside for solo exercise near their homes for the first time since the confinement began on March 15.
Four islands in the Canaries and the Balearics will be the first to transition to so-called “Phase One” on Monday, which will see a further opening up of small businesses and lifting of restrictions on movement.
Simón said this was because the islands “have not had any new cases in many days, and very few, or no new infections,” adding, “it will be a first step, but a small step.”
The rest of the Spain will be in “Phase Zero” on Monday as part of the country’s “Transition to New Normal,” with restricted opening of some small businesses. The transition to “Phase One” is expected to start a week later on May 11 for the majority of the country.
Runners, cyclists and walkers spilled from city sidewalks into the roads this weekend after over-14s were given permission to take walks of half a mile with one other person in the morning and evening. For the past seven weeks, adults have only able to leave their homes to visit grocery stores or pharmacies, with children allowed to take daily exercise with an adult from last week.
Simón, the country’s point person for coronavirus response, cautioned that Sunday’s markedly improved numbers could be influenced by delayed reporting from Spain’s 17 regions during the long weekend holiday.
“The evolution [of the virus] is good, very good,” he said, adding that among the seven European countries with more than 100,000 cumulative infections, Spain has the lowest numbers of new infections.
Simon said the number of cases has dropped to 54 per 100,000 residents in the last two-week period, compared to 125 per 100,000 in a two-week period a month ago.
A total of 42,111 health workers have been infected by coronavirus to date, Spain’s health ministry reported Sunday, representing nearly one fifth of all cases at 19%.
Asked whether there is a likelihood of new recurrences of the virus, Simón said “there is a high probability of that happening. We have no guarantees, that is clear, but we have to be prepared for that situation, and we have to keep that in mind in the coming months.” He stressed “we must ensure our [health] systems are not overwhelmed to the levels we reached.”
Asked about the possibility of higher immunity levels in the coming months offering some protections, Simón said, “immunity will not get us out of this.”
Spain has the second highest number of cases in the world after the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University. The country’s death toll is one of the highest per capita worldwide.
Helena Cavendish de Moura wrote from Atlanta and Ingrid Formanek from Spain.