target=”_blank” href=”http://www.independent.co.uk/topic/death-toll” data-vars-item-name=”BL-9432241-/topic/death-toll” data-vars-event-id=”c6″>death toll to 6,528, more than every nation except Italy, where the number of fatalities fell for the second consecutive day on Sunday.
Both countries have demanded more European help as they contend with the continent’s worst crisis since the Second World War.
Spain’s health ministry announced more than 6,500 new infections on Sunday, putting the number of people who have tested positive for Covid-19 in the country at 78,797.
Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez announced stricter lockdown measures on Saturday requiring all non-essential workers to remain at home for the next two weeks.
The latest restrictions, which will last from 30 March to 9 April, were approved at a cabinet meeting on Sunday.
Mr Sanchez told the nation in a televised address: ”This decision allows us to reduce the number of infected people to a much greater extent.”
He added that Spain would be making a “powerful collective effort” over the next few days.
The prime minister urged the European Union to form a ”united economic and social strategy” to help deal with the crisis.
Spain has started to build new morgues as a result of its rising number of fatalities.
Spanish media reported that a building in Madrid called “the doughnut” will be turned into a makeshift morgue, making it the second in the city after an ice rink was repurposed last week.
Health emergency chief Fernando Simon said the epidemic seemed to be nearing its peak in some areas, but stressed that Spain has a shortage of intensive care beds.
He also said: “We continue to have a major problem with ICU saturation.”
More than 1 million masks have arrived in Madrid from China and will be given to health, transport and postal workers.
In Italy, officials expressed cautious optimism after the 24-hour death toll fell for the second consecutive day but the country still looks almost certain to see an extension of stringent containment measures.
The Civil Protection department said on Sunday that 756 people had died in the last day, bringing the total to 10,779 – more than a third of all deaths from the virus worldwide.
That was 133 fewer deaths than the 889 deaths reported on Saturday, when the numbers fell from a record high of 919 on Friday, with officials expressing hope that the most severe shutdown in the west was showing results.
But despite hopes the downward trend would continue, it appeared increasingly likely restrictions on all but essential activities that are due to expire on Friday would be officially extended.
“The measures that were due to expire on April 3 inevitably will be extended,” regional affairs minister Francesco Boccia told Sky TG24 television.
He said the length of the extension would be decided by Giuseppe Conte, the prime minister, and the government based on data from the medical and scientific community.
“I think that it would be inappropriate and irresponsible to talk of reopening,” Mr Boccia added.
Giulio Gallera, the top health official in the hard-hit northern region of Lombardy, said Italians had to acknowledge they would have to live “in a different way in the coming months”.
Earlier, Mr Conte had urged Europe to response to Italy’s “historic call” for help.
The crisis “involves all of the economic and social systems of the member states”, he said, vowing to “fight until the last drop of sweat, until the last gram of energy, to obtain a strong, vigorous, cohesive European response”.
Additional reporting from Reuters