COVID-19 Cases

In weeks, the death of Spain's virus is the lowest, but economic tanks

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Spain recorded its lowest daily death rate for coronavirus on Thursday in six weeks, but data showing the economy shrank by the largest recorded margin in the first three months of the year, revealing the heavy cost of outbreak control measures.

With more than 24,000 COVID-19 fatalities, Spain has had one of the worst outbreaks in the world and imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in mid-March, although officials are confident that the worst has passed and want to begin easing measures next week.

Devastated businesses across the country are contemplating how to return to normal in an environment where meticulous hygiene and social distancing are paramount.

"They are forcing us to take action-but it's impossible to get what they're asking for," said Livia Patare, a Canary Islands hairdresser who can open Monday. "I went crazy yesterday to pharmacies and glove-seeking establishments." Beaches and hotels lie empty in a tourism sector which is one of the biggest contributors to the economy. Another big driver, building and real estate, is at a standstill after only recovering from the financial crisis of 2008.

"This crisis will be worse for hotel workers than it was in building in 2009. At least then we were still having tourism, "said Francisco Rullan, who is working at a hotel on Mallorca's holiday island.

The number of coronavirus-related fatalities recorded overnight in Spain fell to 268, according to the health ministry, the lowest since March 20. Cases rose from 212,917 the day before, to 213,435-in a population of 47 million.

In the first quarter, Spain's economy shrunk by 5.2 percent compared to the previous period, preliminary data showed, with household spending plummeting by 7.5 percent as people hunkered home with most shops, bars and restaurants closed in March.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez outlined a four-phase plan Tuesday to lift the lockdown with a scheduled return to normal by the end of June.

Under the plan, from Monday, hairdressers and other businesses that operate through appointment will be open, while restaurants will be able to offer takeaway services.

Beaches will be able to reopen by late June.

Different areas of the country will progress at different rates through the stages depending on how the infection rate evolves and on other criteria such as compliance with social distancing rules.