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Spain's health minister to resign as COVID-19 cases hit new daily high

Reuters logo Reuters 21/01/2021
a person wearing a costume: A medical staff member administers a PCR test to a nursing home worker during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Durango © Reuters/VINCENT WEST A medical staff member administers a PCR test to a nursing home worker during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Durango

MADRID (Reuters) - Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa will resign next week to campaign in regional elections in Catalonia, an official from his party said on Thursday, while national authorities reported a record 44,357 new daily coronavirus cases.

a man wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone: FILE PHOTO: Spain's Health Minister Salvador Illa attends a news conference at Hospital Clinic in Barcelona © Reuters/NACHO DOCE FILE PHOTO: Spain's Health Minister Salvador Illa attends a news conference at Hospital Clinic in Barcelona

"By Thursday of next week at 12 midnight, he will have given up his portfolio," Miquel Iceta, the secretary of the Catalan Socialist Party, said in a news conference.

Illa, who has overseen Spain's response to the coronavirus pandemic, had said he would step down when campaigning got underway for the election, which is set to take place on Feb. 14.

Spain has been routinely reporting record daily coronavirus infections since the end of December, but a top health official said the recent surge appeared to be stabilising.

"The increases we are seeing are getting smaller every day, which implies that we have reached an inflection point," Fernando Simon, the country's health emergency chief, said in a separate news conference to present the data.

Despite that optimism, the nationwide incidence of the virus as measured over the past 14 days climbed to a new high of 796 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday from 736 cases the previous day.

Simon warned that pressure on hospitals would likely continue into at least the next week.

The latest figures brought the cumulative total of coronavirus cases in Spain to 2,456,675, while the death toll increased by 404 to 55,041.

(Reporting by Nathan Allen and Joan Faus, Editing by Andrei Khalip and Paul Simao)

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