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Spain's daily COVID-19 deaths below 100 for first time in two months

REUTERS/Juan Medina

Spain's daily death toll from the coronavirus fell below 100 for the first time in two months, the health ministry said on Sunday, as some parts of the country prepared for a further loosening of lockdown measures.

Total deaths from the virus rose by 87 to 27,650, while the number of confirmed cases edged up to 231,350 from 230,698, the ministry said.

Spain introduced one of Europe's strictest lockdowns on March 14 in a bid to contain the virus, which threatened to overwhelm the country's health service.

As the population has remained largely confined to their homes, the rate of new infections and fatalities has steadily fallen, prompting the government to begin unwinding the lockdown.

Health emergency chief Fernando Simon cautioned however, that the low death tally on Sunday could be due to delays in reporting at weekends.

Asked at a press conference if health authorities had sufficient resources to deal with current patient levels, he said: "The ministry is gathering reserves, but now there is enough material for current needs."

A doctor in Madrid told Reuters that she was worried hospitals would not be able to cope if there was a second surge of the disease.

"I have to say that we are not yet ready to face a second wave even if it is smaller," said Belen, who did not give her second name.

As the government begins to lift restrictions on movement, authorities are considering extending mandatory mask use on public transport to cover all public spaces.

"There is an ample consensus that we should reinforce the obligatory use of masks," Health Minister Salvador Illa told a news conference.

From Monday, inhabitants of the sparsely populated Canary Islands of La Graciosa, El Hierro, and La Gomera, and Formentera in the Balearics, will be able to go for walks at any time of day.

However, in Madrid and Barcelona, which have been particularly badly hit, tougher restrictions will remain in place.

Protests have sprung up around the country in the past week, with disgruntled Spaniards airing their frustration at the government's handling of the crisis.

"I am against all the measures which this government has used to manage the coronavirus," Jose Flores, a banker, told Reuters at the protest.

In one video shared widely on social media, a huge banner depicting Mr Sanchez's face with the word "obey" emblazoned underneath was unfurled from a Madrid tower block.

"They need to test everybody so healthy people can get back to work and we can restart the economy," said another demonstrator in Salamanca who gave his name only as Carlos.

"After coronavirus, the worst virus is going to be the virus of Pedro and Pablo, who are going to ruin 47 million Spaniards," he said, referring to Mr Sanchez and his deputy, far-left politician Pablo Iglesias.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Saturday he would seek parliament's approval to extend the country's state of emergency until the end of June, when most regions should have returned to normality.

"The path that we are taking is the only one possible," Mr Sanchez told a news conference on Saturday.

"It doesn't matter what the demonstrations are about. The important thing is to maintain social distancing.” (Reuters)