Madrid, the epicentre of the outbreak in the country, has been the hardest hit, with 176 people dying in a 24-hour span and 804 overall deaths since the virus reached Spanish shores.
The government has taken over the Ifema convention centre, converting into a temporary field hospital that will be able to up to house 5,500 patients. Two hotels in the city have also been converted into makeshift hospitals to hold patients displaying mild symptoms of the coronavirus, El Pais reports.
On Friday, Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa warned that “the worst days are on their way” despite the nation-wide lockdown enacted by the government.
Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Co-ordination Center for Health Alerts, admitted that “it is very likely” that the rate of infection in Spain is much higher than the reported numbers, as testing kits have been in short supply.
Rapid test kits were supposed to made available by the end of this week, however, the Health Ministry has refused to report how many tests are available, only saying that they will be available “in the coming days”.
The president of the Community of Madrid, Isabel Díaz Ayuso, said on Thursday that it is likely that up to 80 per cent of the city will become infected with the coronavirus.
“This virus has been in Spain for a longer time and is going to spread to practically everyone, and most people will not have a major problem, but the problem is the vulnerable population,” she said in comments reported by El Periodico.
“In recent weeks the numbers of infected have increased in Madrid, it is like when we had the Spanish flu a century ago, in which Spain was the only country that gave real figures, because now it has happened in Madrid, which is where we started to quantify the number of infections,” Ayuso added.
The rapidly rising number of infections in Spain has placed increasing strains on the nation’s healthcare system, leading the government to recruit medical students, retired doctors, and first aid volunteers to help with staff shortages.
“It is really tough. Yesterday there was a queue to deal with seriously ill patients. Those who don’t make it die apart from their families,” a doctor in Barcelona told The Telegraph.
Spain enacted a nation-wide lockdown to confront the spread of the virus last Saturday, in which people can only leave their homes for allowed purposes such as buying food and seeking medical care. The police and army have been patrolling the streets to implement the restrictions and have arrested 88 people for breaking the national quarantine.