Spain hit with 1,500 new coronavirus cases, becoming latest pandemic hotspot

Spain is the latest hotspot for the coronavirus pandemic, with 1,500 new cases Saturday — half in the capital city of Madrid.

The skyrocketing number of infections has pushed Spain into the top five for the largest number of cases — in all, 5,753 confirmed infections and at least 133 deaths. The others on the list: China, Italy, Iran and South Korea.

The Spanish government expected to declare a national state of emergency Saturday, the BBC reported.

Residents in Madrid and northeast Catalonia woke up to empty streets after regional authorities closed down bars and restaurants and other non-essential commercial outlets Friday. A nationwide lockdown is also expected to try to contain the spread of the deadly virus, the Associated Press reported.

Europe is now the epicenter of the pandemic, according to the World Health Organization. The virus has been confirmed in 139 countries, according to a running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University.

Also on Saturday, the Czech Republic government closed most stores and restaurants for 10 days. So far, the country has reported 141 cases.

The move echoes one in Italy to close all stores except supermarkets and pharmacies as Covid-19 ravages the nation’s health care system. At least 17,660 cases have been confirmed there, with at least 1,266 deaths.

And the UK is moving to ban mass gatherings, Reuters reported — a reversal for Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has resisted the stringent measures adopted by other countries to slow the virus. The UK now has over 800 cases and eight deaths.

The leaders of the G7 nations will meet Monday to discuss the virus, French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted Friday. “Following my call with @realDonaldTrump and all G7 leaders, we agreed to organize an extraordinary Leaders Summit by videoconference on Monday on Covid-19. We will coordinate research efforts on a vaccine and treatments, and work on an economic and financial response.”

In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern ordered nearly everyone entering the country after midnight Sunday to self-isolate. Also, no cruise liners will be allowed to dock until June 30. The country is reporting six cases.

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