MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak will cause further disruption and deaths in the coming weeks and months, and the situation will deteriorate further as health care facilities become increasingly stretched, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in a speech to an almost-empty lower house of parliament on Wednesday.
Roughly 30 members of the lower house and five ministers were in attendance as Sanchez spoke. Other lawmakers watched the speech remotely. The podium at which the prime minister and other parliamentary faction leaders spoke was cleaned with disinfectant after each lawmaker concluded their comments.
"A pandemic is a medical, social and economic emergency. It is an unprecedented challenge. The measures are very strict, but they are necessary and in proportion. The worst is yet to come. It will be when our health care system will face the highest number of infections when people will be isolated for a long time when the economic consequences of the emergency are felt," the prime minister stated.
Sanchez expressed his regret at the government’s initial response to the disease, adding that ministers would have acted differently if they had known the catastrophic epidemiological impact of COVID-19 in advance.
"If we knew then what we know now, the world would have acted differently. The pandemic has outpaced everyone’s forecasts, including the World Health Organization," Sanchez remarked.
On Tuesday evening, Sanchez announced a 200 billion euro ($217.3 billion) stimulus package to provide economic relief for those most at risk. This sum is approximately 20 percent of Spain’s gross domestic product, and over half of the funds will come directly from the state.
The funds will be used to ensure food, electricity and gas supplies, and will also support businesses impacted by the ongoing outbreak.
"The virus hits all of us. It is an unprecedented challenge, a challenge that compels us to take emergency measures. The virus has changed our way of life. It kills people and crushes companies," the prime minister stated.
Spain is second only to Italy in terms of the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in a European country. On Wednesday, health authorities in Spain announced that 2,538 new cases of COVID-19 were registered in the preceding 24 hours, raising the overall total since the start of the outbreak to 13,716. The death toll has risen to 598.