Spanish doctors stage walkout over ‘weakened’ health system

Medical residents protest in Barcelona

Spanish doctors are staging their first national walkout in 25 years in protest over what they say are poor working conditions and the weakened state of the national public health system.

The 24-hour strike was called by the State Confederation of Medical Unions, which wants health authorities to negotiate changes in the sector.

The confederation said the coronavirus pandemic has exposed a lack of investment public health system in recent decades.

Medical Resident protesting in Barcelona

The protest came as the Spanish government said its proposed 2021 state budget includes a 151% increase in spending for the public health sector.

In France, the government is holding emergency virus meetings and warning of possible new lockdowns, as hospitals fill up with new Covid-19 patients and doctors call for back-up.

President Emmanuel Macron is convening top ministers, while Prime Minister Jean Castex is meeting with MPs, unions and business lobbies as the government weighs its next steps in the fight against surging infections.

Interior minister Gerald Darmanin told France-Inter radio that “we should expect difficult decisions”.

Among possible new measures for the hardest-hit areas are lengthening existing curfews, full confinement on weekends or all week, and closing non-essential businesses.

Doctors describe growing pressure on emergency services and intensive care wards, where Covid-19 patients now take up 54% of beds nationwide.

France is reporting more than 350 new cases per 100,000 people each week, and nearly 18% of tests are positive. It has reported Europe’s third-highest virus death toll, with more than 35,000 lives lost.

Meanwhile, Iran has reached another single-day record with 346 deaths.

That brings the country’s total virus deaths to 33,299, the highest coronavirus toll in the Middle East.

Iran’s health ministry spokeswoman Sima Sadat Lari said daily coronavirus cases have also hit a record, with 6,968 reported. That brings Iran’s total number of infections to 581,824.

She said 4,995 Covid-19 patients are in serious condition.

A health worker takes swab sample of a woman to test for Covid-19 outside a garment shop in Mumbai, India

In Hungary, health authorities reported a surge in coronavirus deaths, pushing the daily total to a new record.

The government data shows 63 deaths in the past 24 hours, up from 47 deaths a day earlier. The number of new confirmed cases, reported at 2,079 on Tuesday, has been above 2,000 for the sixth consecutive day.

Hungary’s parliament passed new legislation that tightens the rules governing home quarantine and stipulates the fines for breaching these rules.

Authorities in the country of nearly 10 million have conducted about one million tests so far. The totals have reached 63,642 infections and 1,535 deaths.

Russian authorities have issued a nationwide mask requirement amid a rapid resurgence of the coronavirus outbreak.

Health chiefs registered 16,550 new cases and 320 new deaths on Tuesday, the highest daily death toll since the beginning of the pandemic.

The public health agency, Rospotrebnadzor, ordered all Russians to wear masks in crowded public spaces, on public transport, in taxis, at car parks and in lifts, starting on Wednesday.

The agency also recommended regional authorities put a curfew on entertainment events, cafes, restaurants and bars from 11pm to 6am.

Russia has the world’s fourth largest tally of over 1.5 million confirmed coronavirus cases. The government’s coronavirus task force has been reporting more than 15,000 new infections every day since last Sunday, which is much higher than in the spring.

In total, Russia has reported more than 26,000 virus-related deaths.

Despite the sharp spike in daily new infections, Russian authorities have repeatedly dismissed the idea of imposing a second national lockdown or shutting down businesses.

Most virus-related restrictions were lifted during the summer.

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