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Spain's daily coronavirus deaths up, lockdown easing plan unaffected

People wearing protective face masks walk past a real estate agency during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Madrid. REUTERS/Susana Vera

Spain recorded 325 deaths from the novel coronavirus overnight, up from 301 reported the previous day, but health officials said the epidemic was evolving favourably as the country prepares for a gradual easing of its lockdown from next week.

The overall death toll from the virus rose by 453 to 24,275, the health ministry said, adding that the additional cases were from the previous days in the region of Galicia.

The number of diagnosed cases rose by 2,144 from Tuesday to 212,917, the world's second-highest tally after the United States, the ministry said.

"The evolution we are seeing is still very favourable and is in line with what we expected," health emergency coordinator Fernando Simon told a news briefing on Wednesday.

The daily number of deaths has come down sharply from the record 950 seen in early April.

He said the so-called 'R' rate – the average number of infections that one person with the virus causes - stood at below 1 in almost all areas of the country.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced late on Tuesday a four-phase plan to lift one of the toughest coronavirus lockdowns in Europe that would culminate in a return to normality by the end of June.

The implementation will vary from province to province depending on factors such as how the rate of infection evolves, the number of intensive care beds available locally and compliance with distancing rules. These targets are yet to be announced.

The lockdown restrictions have halted public life since March 14 and nearly paralysed the economy.

Data released on Wednesday showed Spanish retail sales fell 14.1% in March from a year earlier on a calendar-adjusted basis, after rising 1.8% in February.

Most stores closed during the second half of last month as part of the lockdown and have remained shut in April