Spain passes 10,000 deaths after its highest single-day rise yet -- but the curve is stabilizing

Spain passed another grim milestone as it grappled to contain its coronavirus outbreak on Thursday, reporting that more than 10,000 have now died in the country as a result of the virus.

Spain passed another grim milestone as it grappled to contain its coronavirus outbreak on Thursday, reporting that more than 10,000 have now died in the country as a result of the virus.

The Health Ministry said it recorded 950 new deaths in the past 24 hours, the highest single-day increase the country has seen so far. Its total death tally is now 10,003, meaning it joins Italy as the only countries to report a five-figure death toll.

But there was cause for muted optimism in the country, whose devastating outbreak is slowing.

As death figures rise, the rate of new infections in Spain has fallen to its lowest rate since the start of the crisis. An increase of 3,056 cases was reported in the past day, just a 4.3% jump and a notable improvement on the dire situation in the country during mid-March.

Officials said the data shows that Spain's curve of cases is coming under control, and that the drastic emergency measures put in place to lock down the country are working.

"The data shows us that the curve has stabilized," Health Minister Salvador Illa said in the government's Thursday press conference. "That we have achieved the primary objective of reaching the peak of the curve and that now we are starting the phase of deceleration."

Deaths lag behind new infections as a measure of the speed of a country's outbreak. And even the stark 10.5% rise in fatalities Spain reported Thursday is similar to Wednesday's increase, and smaller in percentage terms than any recorded in the past two weeks.

There was also a smaller increase in new patients admitted into intensive care units, with 220 admissions in the past day.

Spain's government has come under criticism from opposition parties, some health workers and unions for reported shortages of ICU facilities, lack of sufficient personal protective gear and overstretched health workers.

A second makeshift morgue opened earlier this week in the capital Madrid, which has already converted a conference center into an emergency hospital and an ice rink into another morgue.

And Illa warned that the country's health service remains under strain, saying: "Even observing a decrease in the number of admissions, the long stays in these units produce an effect of accumulation of patients because of which there still remains difficult weeks for our health system."

But officials have indicated that Spain's harsh lockdown measures are having the desired effect.

Health official María José Sierra said on Wednesday that the lower case numbers help "evaluate the measures we've been taking very positively," and that in many communities around the country the government has seen pressure on intensive care units ease.

The total number of current or active cases in Spain stood at 73,492 on Thursday, the government said. In total, it has an accumulated number of 110,238 recorded cases since the start of the epidemic.

Spain has been one of the world's worst-hit countries, trailing only Italy in total deaths from Covid-19, and behind Italy and the United States in total reported cases. Its streets have laid empty for weeks as residents have been told to stay home.

Meanwhile, Spaniards continue to adjust to the devastating economic impact of the pandemic.

The nation registered an increase in unemployment of 302,265 people in March compared to the previous month, according to Spanish Labor Ministry data released Thursday.

This increase represents the largest monthly rise since records began, Labor Minister Yolanda Diaz said at a press conference in Madrid on Thursday. She called the increase in unemployment "absolutely exceptional" and "historic."

The worst-affected sector was services and tourism, with over 200,000 jobless claims, Diaz noted at the press conference. Spain's total unemployment is now 3,548,312 following a 9.3% increase in March.

CNN's Max Ramsay, Ingrid Formanek, Tim Lister and Al Goodman contributed reporting

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