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Health

Spain ready to send in troops to trace resurging coronavirus

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on Tuesday that troops would be made available to help regions overcome a resurgence of the coronavirus, following Spain’s worst week for infections since the epidemic’s peak in late March.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez speaks during a news conference after a cabinet meeting, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, at the Moncloa Palace in Madrid, Spain, August 25, 2020. REUTERS/Juan Medina

He also said regional administrations could make decisions themselves on how to handle the fight against the epidemic rather than have the central government take charge.

The government would support requests by regional leaders to declare localized states of emergency, Sanchez said.

“The pandemic data curve is worrying and has to be contained. We have to be calm and vigilant,” Sanchez said after the first cabinet meeting following the summer recess.

Spain’s cumulative tally of coronavirus cases - already Western Europe’s highest - hit 412,553 on Tuesday, but new infections, at 2,415 in the past 24 hours, appeared to have ebbed after a surge last week when over 7,000 cases were registered for four days in a row, Health Ministry figures show.

The daily numbers can be updated retroactively.

Infections have risen sharply since Spain lifted a three-month state of emergency and lockdown in late June, but daily deaths have been much lower than in March-May. With 10 new deaths logged on Tuesday, Spain’s total toll stands at 28,924.

“Regions that do not have enough tracers can count on the support of our country’s armed forces,” Sanchez told a news conference, pledging an initial 2,000 troops would be made available.

Regional authorities have brought back some restrictions that were lifted along with the national lockdown, butt some regions, including hard-hit Madrid, have complained about a lack of legal measures or concerns about how to use those available.

Following concerns from parents and teachers over a lack of clarity on government and regional plans for the safe reopening of classrooms in about two weeks, Sanchez said:

“I guarantee to the fathers and mothers and teaching staff that educational centres will be safe from COVID, and that they will be much safer than many other environments where our young ones have been in the past few weeks.”

Both Madrid and Catalonia announced they would carry out mass testing of students and hire more staff to ensure smaller class sizes when the new term begins.

Writing by Andrei Khalip; Editing by Angus MacSwan, William Maclean

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