Coronavirus live news: WHO reports worrying infection trends in southern Europe and Balkans | World news

The Spanish government has urged “respect” for the coronavirus as the country moves to contain 224 active outbreaks, most of them in the northeastern regions of Catalonia and Aragón.

Speaking in parliament on Wednesday, the health minister, Salvador Illa, said that people needed to remain vigilant, adding that early detection and action remained vital. He said:

We don’t need to be afraid of the virus, but we need to make sure we don’t lose our respect for it.

He said that most of the cases were linked to seasonal agricultural workers, parties, and family events.

The tourism minister, Reyes Maroto, said the situation in Catalonia was being brought under control and said she hoped there would be no reason for France to close the border. On Sunday, the French prime minister, Jean Catex refused to rule out the move.

On Wednesday morning Maroto told an event organised by Europa Press news agency:

With the latest data we have in Aragon and Catalonia, we’re a bit more optimistic. Catalonia has already reduced the number of infections over the last three days.

Let’s hope that with this better data we don’t have to close a border that for us is very important for mobility with our European partners.

Barcelona city council has imposed limits on the number of people allowed onto the Catalan capital’s beaches after crowds flocked to the seaside at the weekend despite calls to stay home to halt the local spike in infections.

The wealthy northeastern region, which borders France, has been at the heart of a rebound in coronavirus cases since Spain lifted a nationwide lockdown one month ago, with almost 7,000 new cases, nearly half of those nationwide in the last 14 days, health ministry data shows.

Catalonia registered 63 new cases on Tuesday, 70 on Monday and 994 on Sunday, down from a peak of 1,226 on Saturday.

On Wednesday, Madrid’s regional government announced that it had covered the costs of the burials of 59 people whose bodies were never claimed after they died from the virus in hospitals and care homes in and around the capital.

The regional minister for Justice, Interior and victims, Enrique López, said €134,000 had been spent on burials “to give these people their dignity”.

Rather than bury them in a common grave, added López, “they have been buried individually and properly identified”.

The bodies of the 59 people will remain in burial niches in a cemetery in the south of Madrid for 10 years, hopefully giving any relatives time to come forward and claim the remains so they can be buried elsewhere in the cemetery.

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