Spain's health workers protest against health service cuts

Protestors march in support of public health services amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in Madrid, Spain, November 29, 2020. REUTERS/Javier Barbancho

MADRID (Reuters) - Dancing and banging drums in the street, doctors and nurses protested in Madrid on Sunday against cuts which they say have left them struggling to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

Singing "less flags and more nurses", about 4,000 protesters marched through the Spanish capital, the region hit hardest by the coronavirus.

"They are segregating (health). In the private health companies it is a business. In the public, everyone comes. If you don't have money, you don't get," said Lucia Tielvez, 65, an auxiliary health worker.

Madrid's conservative regional government has denied cutting health services.

Photographs published in Spanish media on Sunday showing cities packed with Christmas shoppers sparked fears of a spike in infections.

"In Madrid we are very aware of COVID," tweeted Antonio R. Ajeno ironically, above a picture of crowds in Madrid.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez urged Spaniards to avoid large family gatherings this Christmas to avoid a rise in COVID-19 cases.

"The next few months will be decisive. Experts predict that we will attend a critical stage of the pandemic, coinciding with the first mass vaccines," he told party supporters on Saturday.

Spain's left-wing government is considering limiting Christmas gatherings to six people.

Spain added 10,853 new cases of COVID-19 to its tally on Friday, according to health ministry data, down from more than 12,000 new cases the day before.

The number of people who died from coronavirus in Spain rose by 294 on Friday, bringing the total death toll from the pandemic to 44,668, while the cumulative total of cases reached 1,628,208.

(Reporting by Javier Barbancho and Silvio Castellanos; Writing by Graham Keeley; Editing by Alex Richardson)

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