Spain’s coronavirus toll overtook that of China on Wednesday, rising to 3,434 after another 738 people died as Madrid announced a multi-million-euro deal with Beijing for critical supplies.
The spike in fatalities means that across the globe, only Italy now has a higher death toll than Spain.
In China, where the virus emerged late last year, the Covid-19 epidemic has claimed 3,281 lives.
The latest figures were announced as Spain entered the 11th day of an unprecedented lockdown to try and rein in the deadly coronavirus outbreak that has now infected 47,610 people, the health ministry said.
The surge in numbers has brought the medical system to the brink of collapse, with Spain struggling with a lack of medical supplies for testing, treatment and the protection of frontline workers, and a growing number of cases among healthcare personnel with more than 5,400 infected.
To address the shortages, Health Minister Salvador Illa said the government had inked a major deal with China.
Worth some 432 million euros, the deal will cover 550 million masks, 5.5 million rapid test kits, 950 respirators and 11 million pairs of gloves, he told a televised news conference.
NATO help sought
The announcement came a day after Spain’s armed forces asked NATO for humanitarian assistance to secure supplies to help curb the spread of the virus both in the military and in the civilian population.
The request specified 450,000 respirators, 500,000 rapid testing kits, 500 ventilators and 1.5 million surgical masks.
Despite the national lockdown imposed on 14 March, which is to be extended until 11 April, both deaths and infections have continued to mount, with officials warning this week would be particularly bad.