Spain extends lockdown; China again reports no new local cases

March 26 (UPI) — Spain’s parliament voted Thursday to extend its state of emergency for two more weeks after its COVID-19 death toll surpassed China’s a day earlier.

The Spanish Parliament voted early Thursday to extend its state of emergency to allow the country’s lockdown measures, in place since March 14 that prohibit its more than 45 million people from leaving their homes, to continue until April 11.

The vote followed its Ministry of Health announcing Wednesday it recorded a spike in deaths, surpassing China as the nation with the second-most number of deaths.

Italy’s caseload has surpassed 74,000 and edges closer to overtaking China.

Beijing’s health commission reported zero local transmissions of the virus on Thursday but dozens of new imported cases, a trend that has continued to increase this week. China’s total caseload is more than 81,200.

In Japan, the government said Thursday it will establish a new coronavirus task force after its health ministry reported dozens of new cases, increasing its total to more than 1,200.

“I told Prime Minister [Shinzo] Abe there is a high risk of coronavirus spreading widely,” Health Minister Katsunobu Kato told reporters following a meeting with the prime minister.

However, he said Abe was not considering a state of emergency that would arm governors with the power to order citizens to remain indoors and close schools.

Wednesday, Tokyo Gov. Yuriko Koike asked residents to stay home over the weekend after dozens of new cases appeared in the city. Tokyo is within an “important phase in preventing an explosive rise in the number of infections,” the governor said.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has called on governments to protect those behind bars as part of their measures to contain the disease.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said in a statement the virus has begun to appear in prisons, jails, immigration detention centers and other facilities built to detain people, and urged the governments to release those vulnerable to the virus and people detained without legal merit.

“Now, more than ever, governments should release every person detained without sufficient legal basis, including political prisoners and others detained simply for expressing critical or dissenting views,” she said.

Detention facilities are often overcrowded, unhygienic and offer inadequate health services to their vulnerable populations, she said, adding that social distancing and self-isolation are “practically impossible” in these institutions.

Scenes from a pandemic: World copes with COVID-19

Mohamed abu Daga (L) and his bride Israa wear face masks during a photo shoot at a studio before their wedding ceremony in Khan Yunis in southern Gaza on March 23. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo