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New virus deaths in Spain fall to two-month low under 100

Healthcare workers acknowledged applause as Spaniards thanked them with a clapping tribute Sunday evening
Healthcare workers acknowledged applause as Spaniards thanked them with a clapping tribute Sunday evening CRISTINA QUICLER AFP
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Madrid (AFP)

Spain on Sunday reported 87 coronavirus deaths over a 24-hour period, the first time in two months that the daily toll has dropped below 100.

The number came a day before Spain is to further relax lockdown measures across the country, except in Madrid and Barcelona.

"For the first time in a long time we are below 100, which is good news," said the head of the emergency health centre Fernando Simon.

At the height of the current outbreak in early April, Spain counted 950 deaths in one day.

Spain remains one of the countries hardest hit by the virus with a total of 27,650 deaths, the health ministry reported on Sunday. The number of confirmed cases is more than 231,000.

Spain was now "very close" to putting an end to the transmission of the virus, thanks to the efforts of the population, said Simon.

He warned, however, that the danger of a second wave of infections was "still very big".

For that reason, the government wanted "to reinforce the compulsory nature of face mask wearing", Health Minister Salvador Illa said.

A decree on the subject will be published in the coming days, he added. Wearing a mask is already obligatory on public transport.

- Protests spread -

Spain last Monday began a three-phase plan to end lockdowns for half the country by the end of June. The lockdown measures initially imposed were among the strictest in Europe.

Some 70 percent of the population will have emerged from lockdown this coming week.

Outdoor seating in bars and restaurants will be allowed again, as well as family reunions and meetings between friends up to 10 people.

But people living in Madrid and much of the neighbouring Castile y Leon region are to remain confined next week, as are the inhabitants of Barcelona.

Small shops, however, will be allowed to reopen.

Nevertheless, for several days now there have been protests against the government of Socialist Prime Ministers Pedro Sanchez, in one of Madrid's most affluent districts.

In the meantime, to avoid importing new cases, entry to Spain by air or sea will be limited to Spanish citizens, residents and a small number of others, all of whom will have to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

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