Spain Virus Cases Keep Slowing as Death Toll Approaches 17,000

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Spain reported 619 deaths from the coronavirus on Sunday as the total number of people who have died in the country approaches 17,000. Fewer new cases of the disease were reported than the day before.

There were 4,167 new infections in the 24 hours through Sunday, pushing the total above 166,000, according to Health Ministry data. The death toll rose by 619 to 16,972.

The week of Easter in Spain usually brings at least several days of vacation and travel for many Spaniards and the start of the all-important high season for tourism. The sector generates more than 10% of Spain’s economic output and creates hundreds of thousands of jobs.

But with hundreds of millions of people around the world in lockdown and hotels shuttered, tourism is now on pause. More than 80 million people visited Spain last year, making it one of the most-visited countries in the world, so the implosion of the tourism sector is particularly notable.

Throughout the weekend, Spanish television stations have repeatedly shown images of empty beaches and streets – which normally would be thronged with traditional religious processions and onlookers – deserted.

Reyes Maroto, Spain’s minister of industry, commerce and tourism, says the sector will try to focus on encouraging domestic tourism -– Spaniards traveling within Spain –- in order to help the recovery once Madrid and other governments lift lockdowns. “The coronavirus crisis impacted the tourism sector before and in a more intense way and it will be the sector that takes the longest to emerge from the crisis for two reasons: mobility and confidence and a sense of safety about the destination,” Maroto said in an interview published Sunday in Spanish newspaper El Pais.

The pandemic has triggered losses during Easter week of around 18 billion euros for Spain’s tourism sector, according to calculations by Fetave, a Spanish travel agency association. The group is asking Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez to make the government’s pool of state-backed credits for businesses more generous.

Spain and other countries throughout Europe have pledged billions in credit lines to ensure banks roll out credit lines to small- and medium-sized businesses in particular. On Friday, Spain rolled out a second tranche of 20 billion euros in state-backed loans. Madrid has pledged a total of 100 billion euros in guarantees and said it will increase that amount if it ends up falling short.

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