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Spain Looks at Italy For Clues on Dealing With New Coronavirus

A man is pushed in the wheelchair while wearing protective masks near Real Madrid's Santiago Bernabeu stadium in Madrid, Spain, March 13, 2020.

Over 60,000 people have been confined to four towns in Spain's first mandatory lockdown as infections for the new coronavirus increase sharply, putting a strain on health services and pressure on the government for more action.

The situation in and around the Spanish capital, Madrid, with nearly 2,000 positive cases of the new virus and hospitals rapidly filling up, is a source of particular concern for authorities, as Spain follows hot on the heels of Italy in the coronavirus pandemic.

The country had more than 3,800 cases by Friday morning and at least 84 deaths.

The government has closed museums and sports centers, sent home nearly 10 million students and has asked people to work remotely, while limiting crowds at public events in high risk areas in an effort to contain the spread of COVID-19.

But questions are being asked about whether the measures are enough in the light of the experience in Italy, where authorities have acknowledged that escalating restrictions have been unable to contain the virus.

The Madrid vice president said Friday that the region is in dire need of medical supplies, despite announcing an unprecedented plan to reshuffle the region's health system that included pooling intensive care units from both public and private hospitals, and even considering creating additional hospital rooms in hotels. At least two hotel chains have offered their premises.