By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) – For the second day in a row, Spain broke its record for daily coronavirus contagion, with the Health Ministry reporting 44,357 new infections.
The number of infections is up nearly 9,000 compared to last Thursday.
Meanwhile, another 404 people were reported dead from COVID-19 — more than double the figure from a week ago. Spain's official COVID-19 death toll has now surpassed 55,000.
Hospitalizations also saw their biggest one-day jump this week with another 1,314 active COVID-19 patients added. Across Spain, 37% of all intensive care units, including temporary ones, are being used to treat these patients.
Scenes from some of Spain's hospitals are an indication of the crippling pressure. Reports suggest that around 90 people with COVID-19 are waiting to be admitted to the Hospital Virgen de la Salud in Toledo. Leaked images show hallways replete with patients.
In a Sevilla hospital, the entire cancer ward was transferred to another hospital to make way for COVID-19 patients. In many areas, non-urgent surgeries have been canceled.
In the Valencian city of Elche, a 55-year-old man watched his wife and daughter die of COVID-19 on the same day, their doctor Julio Armas said.
"The speed of contagion is faster, there are more entire families getting sick and younger people are being admitted with bilateral pneumonia," he told Spain's Cadena Ser radio.
On Thursday, the government released a statement saying 157 cases of the British variant have been detected in Spain and that the risk of it spreading "is very high."
Spain's chief epidemiologist, Fernando Simon, said Thursday that it could become the dominant strain by mid-March.
In Valencia and several other parts of Spain, the third wave has brought more deaths and hospitalizations than even the first.
But despite the increasingly dramatic scenes, Spain's central government has rejected changing the state of emergency legislation to allow earlier curfews or a lockdown.
Several regional government officials expressed their frustration with the decision on Thursday.
"If I could get down on my knees and beg them to change their minds, I would," Francisco Igea, spokesperson for the government of Castile-La Mancha told Spanish radio RNE. "The lives of our citizens are at stake and this is absolutely irresponsible."
Spain has administered more than 1.1 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines so far.