Spain’s coronavirus deaths rise as some businesses prepare to reopen

In this handout picture made available on April 9, 2020 by the Comunidad de Madrid (Madrid regional government) members of the Comunidad de Madrid's Biological Risk Medical Emergency Service dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, transfer a patient in Madrid. (AFP)
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Updated 12 April 2020

Spain’s coronavirus deaths rise as some businesses prepare to reopen

  • A total of 619 people died over the past 24 hours, health ministry data showed
  • Tough lockdown measures have helped bring down a spiralling death rate that reached its peak in early April

MADRID: Spain’s coronavirus death toll rose for the first time in three days on Sunday, as some businesses prepared to reopen under an easing of the country’s strict lockdown regime.
A total of 619 people died over the past 24 hours, health ministry data showed, bringing the cumulative toll to 16,972. Confirmed cases increased by around 2.6 percent to 166,019.
Tough lockdown measures have helped bring down a spiralling death rate that reached its peak in early April, and the new deaths reported on Saturday were the lowest in 19 days while the increase of confirmed cases has roughly halved from a week ago.
All non-essential workers had been told to stay at home, but the government plans on Monday to revert back to less strict curbs that were in force up to March 27, allowing some businesses to resume activities.
That has triggered concerns of a resurgence in an epidemic that has caused more deaths in Spain than anywhere apart from the United States and Italy.
Catalonia’s regional leader Quim Torra said in a Twitter posting that the government was ignoring scientific advice to “maintain total confinement.”
Antoni Trilla, an epidemics expert and government adviser from the University of Barcelona, had said on Thursday that the stricter confinement measures should be extended.
However, Social Security Minister Jose Luis Escriva said a less strict lockdown was now sufficient to prevent the disease from spreading.
“What we have seen in the past days is the result of conditions that were in place between March 17 and 27, and which will still be in place from Monday,” he told the La Sexta TV channel on Saturday.
The coronavirus is weighing heavily on the Spanish economy, with some 900,000 jobs lost since mid-March.
European Central Bank Vice President Luis de Guindos said Spain’s reliance on tourism would likely leave it exposed to a worse recession than the rest of Europe.
“We’re talking about the worst economic situation since the (1936-39 Spanish) Civil War,” he said in an interview with the La Vanguardia newspaper.
Industry Minister Maria Reyes Maroto said the tourism sector would be slow to recover.
Restoring confidence in Spain as a safe destination for tourists would be key, and measures to prevent the spread of the virus, such as hand-washing and social distancing, would have to continue, even on the beach.
“Those patterns will be in our day-to-day lives for a time, you cannot take a step back,” she was quoted as telling newspaper El Pais.


HK media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under national security law

Updated 10 August 2020

HK media tycoon Jimmy Lai arrested under national security law

  • Lai has been one of the most prominent democracy activists in the Chinese-ruled city and an ardent critic of Beijing

HONG KONG: Hong Kong media tycoon Jimmy Lai has been arrested over suspected collusion with foreign forces under the new national security law, his top aide said on Twitter, in what is the highest-profile arrest yet under the legislation.
Lai has been one of the most prominent democracy activists in the Chinese-ruled city and an ardent critic of Beijing, which imposed the sweeping new law on Hong Kong on June 30, drawing condemnation from Western countries.
The new security law punishes anything China considers subversion, secession, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.
Critics say it crushes freedoms in the semiautonomous city, while supporters say it will bring stability after prolonged pro-democracy protests last year.
“Jimmy Lai is being arrested for collusion with foreign powers at this time,” Mark Simon, a senior executive at Lai’s media company Next Digital, which publishes local tabloid Apple Daily, said early on Monday.
Police did not immediately comment.
Lai was also arrested this year on illegal assembly charges, along with other leading activists, relating to protests last year.
In an interview with Reuters in May, Lai pledged to stay in Hong Kong and continue to fight for democracy even though he expected to be one of the targets of the new legislation.