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Spanish virus cases surge by 5,000 overnight

Health workers applaud people who show them gratitude from their balconies and windows as part of an event organized through social media, during a partial lockdown as part of a 15-day state of emergency to combat the spread of coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Barcelona, Spain, March 20, 2020. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

By Associated Press

Spain has recorded almost 5,000 new cases of coronavirus in 24 hours as it became the third most infected country in the world.

Health authorities said on Saturday that virus infections have reached 24,926, up from 19,980 the day before.

Total deaths are at 1,326, up from 1,002 on Friday.

More than 1,600 patients are in intensive care units that authorities admit are at their limits. Madrid is the hardest hit region with almost 9,000 infections.

Spain is approaching one week of tight restrictions on free moment and the closure of most shops as hospitals and nursing homes buckle under the burden of the virus outbreak.

But authorities admit they expect infections to continue to rise before the measures can hopefully reverse the trend.

Only Italy and China - where the outbreak started - have seen more cases so far.

Meanwhile in Germany, the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg is opening its hospitals to patients from the neighbouring region of eastern France that is struggling with a surge of infections.

A spokesman for the state's health ministry confirmed governor Winfried Kretschmann has offered assistance to France amid a growing shortage of ICU beds there.

Authorities have asked all hospitals in Baden-Wuerttemberg with free capacity to take in French patients requiring ventilators.

The spokesman said that while the state's own capacity is limited and there are already some bottlenecks, "we will naturally try to help our French neighbours".

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