Spain is planning to broaden coronavirus screening to include people without symptoms as a first step towards slowly easing a lockdown in the nation with the second highest death rate from COVID-19.
As with worst-hit Italy, Spain has seen the rate of new infections and deaths slow in recent days, giving cause for hope that the peak has passed.
On Monday, Spain’s health ministry reported a fourth consecutive daily drop in the number of coronavirus-related deaths.
There were 637 fatalities recorded over the past 24 hours, a 5% daily increase on the total to 13,055, but down from 12% a week ago and the lowest total in 13 days.
The number of new cases also slowed, rising 3.3% to 135,032, down from a rise of 4.8% the day before.
“We are preparing ourselves for de-escalation for which it is important to know who is contaminated to be able to gradually lift Spanish citizens’ lockdown,” Spanish Foreign Minister said.
While so far in the country only those people infected or suspected of having the coronavirus have been tested, now checks will focus on the overall population to try and find carriers who may not be displaying symptoms, Gonzalez said.
To ensure screening of the maximum population, Spanish companies are manufacturing 240,000 test kits per week and are boosting capacity, the minister said, while equipment is also being bought from abroad.
Spain has been in lockdown since March 14 and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said at the weekend that would remain in place until April 26.
However, Sanchez opened the door to easing some restrictions, such as keeping all non-essential workers at home, after Easter, even though shops and restaurants will stay shut.
Spain’s death toll stood at 13,341 on Monday, with 136,675 infections.
Checkpoints were lifted on Monday in four hard-hit towns in the northeastern Catalonia region, where there have been more than 100 deaths, the health ministry said.