OVIEDO, Spain

Spain surpassed another tragic milestone on Monday, as the Health Ministry’s official COVID-19 death toll surged beyond 50,000.

Spain, with a population of 47 million, has one of the highest per-capita COVID-19 death rates in the world.

The ministry also reported nearly 24,500 new infections as it updated pandemic data after Dec. 24. So, the new infections are a four-day total.

The average of around 6,100 new cases a day is a steep drop from last week, but likely low due to decreased testing and reporting over holidays and weekends.

“We’ll have to wait some more days to better understand the situation,” chief epidemiologist Fernando Simon told a news conference.

Since last week, active COVID-19 hospitalizations jumped by 1,428. More than 10% of all hospital beds and 21% of all intensive care units are now being used to treat infected patients across Spain.

Further complicating fears of a third wave, the region of Andalusia confirmed the presence of five cases of the new UK coronavirus variant that is said to be more contagious.

On Saturday, Madrid officials also confirmed four cases of the same variant, and several more suspicious cases.

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