Spaniards becoming numb to coronavirus deaths, nurse warns


Hospital staff treat a patient suffering from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) at the Hospital de Sant Pau, after Catalonia's government imposed new restrictions in an effort to control a COVID-19 third wave, in Barcelona, Spain, January 21, 2021. REUTERS/Nacho Doce

BARCELONA (Reuters) - The senior nurse in the intensive care unit of Barcelona's Sant Pau Hospital is anxiously watching the wards fill up and fears that Spaniards are letting their guard down against the coronavirus, numbed by the daily litany of deaths.

Staff at the unit kept up a fast pace on Thursday. Wearing double masks, goggles and gowns, they fitted patients with tubes to assist their breathing or helped them into comfortable positions.

Spain has the world's fourth-highest number of new daily infections in a seven-day average, with 2.4 million confirmed total cases, according to a Reuters tally. It reported 41,576 new cases on Wednesday, while deaths rose by 464 to a total of 54,637.

"In the news they keep saying 300, 400 (deaths each day) and it looks like if they were talking about nothing," ICU supervisor Mar Vega told Reuters.

"I believe people are becoming numb to these figures. They hear them but it's like nothing is happening. People are not truly conscious of what we are going through."

Vega said the increase in hospitalisations reminded her of the pandemic's start last March and that medical staff risked burning out.

"It's been many months. We are very tired."

About 120 patients are currently hospitalised in Sant Pau for coronavirus, with 35 in the ICU, out of about 500 available beds, its director of intensive medicine, Dr Jordi Mancebo, said. These were the worst figures since after the first wave in the spring.

Catalonia region has the highest number of accumulated hospitalisations in Spain. New admissions have doubled in the past three weeks to 600, Mancebo said.

"It's very frustrating that there are people who minimize the importance of the pandemic," he said.

(Reporting by Luis Felipe Castilleja, additional reporting and writing by Joan Faus,; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Angus MacSwan)

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