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MADRID (AP) — The Spanish capital will introduce selective lockdowns in urban areas where the coronavirus is spreading faster, regional health authorities announced Wednesday.

The measures in Madrid, including restrictions on mobility, will most likely affect southern, working-class neighbourhoods where virus contagion rates have been steadily soaring since August, deputy regional health chief Antonio Zapatero said at a press briefing.

“Madrid wants to flatten the curve before the arrival of autumn and the complications that cold weather could bring,” Zapatero said, adding that the “drastic measures” to be taken will be decided by the weekend.

Zapatero also said that people have relaxed protection measures by holding large gatherings, often forgetting about social distancing or masks. He announced that police will monitor compliance of mandatory self-isolation. At least 90 people have been found to be skipping quarantines after testing positive for the new virus, the regional government said.

Madrid and its surrounding region of 6.6 million residents has been accounting for nearly one-third of the country’s new daily infections, which seem to have stabilized at an average of 8,200 per day for the past week.

With a coronavirus caseload above 600,000 and more than 30,000 confirmed deaths for the new virus, Spain has been the hardest hit European country in what some experts are describing as the second wave of the pandemic.

The country flattened the curve of contagion earlier this year with a 3-month lockdown, one of the strictest in the world, but since it reactivated in mid-June, outbreaks have spread throughout the country.

Authorities say they are now doing more tests and that more than half of the newly infected show no symptoms, but health centers are starting to struggle to cope with the number of virus tests required and responding to patients. In hospitals, 8.5% of the country’s beds are now treating COVID-19 patients, but in Madrid at least one-fifth of hospital capacity is devoted to coronavirus-related complications.

“Madrid is maintaining a steady level of infections, but we have to take into account the impact of the pandemic in primary care, in hospitals, which is totally sustainable at the moment, but we have to make that line of infections decrease,” Zapatero said.

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Mexico official: definitive COVID-19 toll will take 2 years

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s top coronavirus official said Sunday that definitive data on the country’s death toll from COVID-19 won’t be available for “a couple of years.”

The statement by Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell is likely to revive debate about Mexico’s death toll, currently at 76,430, the fourth-highest in the world.

“When will the final statistics on deaths from COVID-19 be ready? Certainly, a couple of years after the first year of the pandemic,” López-Gatell said, adding that work would be left to the country’s statistics institute.

Officials have acknowledged in the past that the figure is a significant undercount, because it includes only those who died after a positive test result, almost always at a hospital. Mexico does very little testing, and many people die without a test.

But the Mexican government has avoided adjusting its death toll upward to account for people who died at home or weren’t tested.

Some parts of the country like Mexico City have begun conducting their own recalculations, finding “excess deaths” likely caused by coronavirus were at least double official figures.

The issue is a significant one in Mexico, because President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has frequently compared Mexico’s death rates to those of other countries in a bid to convince the public that his administration isn’t doing a bad job at handling the pandemic. But many other countries have attempted to adjust official figures to account for spikes in deaths that coincide with virus outbreaks.

But López-Gatell placed in doubt Sunday whether the figure was important or whether it could really be measured.

He described the definitive death toll as “one of these technical details” and said the pandemic “cannot be measured.”

Copyright © 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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