Spain’s health minister to resign as COVID-19 cases hit new daily high

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Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa will resign next week to campaign in regional elections in Catalonia, an official from his party announced, while national authorities reported a record 44,357 new daily coronavirus cases.

“By Thursday of next week at 12 midnight, he will have given up his portfolio,” Miquel Iceta, the secretary of the Catalan Socialist Party, said in a news conference.

Illa, who has overseen Spain’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, had said he would step down when campaigning got underway for the election, which is set to take place on Feb. 14.

A woman looks at a message written on a blackboard on te entrance to a restaurant that reads ‘Bars and restaurants Rest in Peace’ in Valencia, Spain, a day before their closure in the region after Valencia’s regional Government ordered the closure of bars and restaurants for a fortnight to prevent coronavirus spread amid a rise in contagions. EPA-EFE/ANA ESCOBAR

Spain has been routinely reporting record daily coronavirus infections since the end of December, but a top health official said the recent surge appeared to be stabilising.

“The increases we are seeing are getting smaller every day, which implies that we have reached an inflection point,” Fernando Simon, the country’s health emergency chief, said in a separate news conference to present the data.

Despite that optimism, the nationwide incidence of the virus as measured over the past 14 days climbed to a new high of 796 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday from 736 cases the previous day.

Simon warned that pressure on hospitals would likely continue into at least the next week.

The latest figures brought the cumulative total of coronavirus cases in Spain to 2,456,675, while the death toll increased by 404 to 55,041.

Main Photo: Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa at the end of the press conference after the cabinet meeting held at Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain. EPA-EFE/Ballesteros

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