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Spain 1st in western Europe to hit 1 million virus cases

Spain became the first country in western Europe to accumulate more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 infections on Wednesday as the nation of 47 million struggles to contain a resurgence of the virus.

The health ministry said that its accumulative case load since the start of the pandemic reached 1,005,295 after reporting 16,973 more cases in the past 24 hours.

The ministry attributes 34,366 deaths to COVID-19. Experts say the real numbers of infections and deaths are probably much higher because insufficient testing, asymptomatic cases and other issues impede authorities from capturing the true scale of the outbreak.

People hold up banners in support of the hotel industry in Pamplona, northern Spain, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, while protesting with others against the new measures against the coronavirus in the Navarra province where all bar and restaurants will be closed for 15 days from midnight Wednesday. (AP PhotoAlvaro Barrientos)

As the numbers rise, authorities in charge of health policy in Spain’s regions are tightening restrictions. They want to stem the surge that has been building in recent months while avoiding a second total lockdown of home confinements that stemmed the first wave of the virus but left the economy reeling.

The regional government of northern Aragón announced Wednesday they have closed the city limits of Zaragoza, Huesca and Teruel. Neighboring Navarra, which leads Spain in infections per 100,000 over 14 days, is preparing to become the first Spanish region to close its borders on Thursday. La Rioja will also close its regional borders on Friday.

Spain’s Health Minister Salvador Illa and regional heads of health will meet on Thursday to discuss their virus strategies and consider employing nightly curfews to target late-night partying as a source of contagion.

A man holds up banner in support of hotel industry and the job reading," I search for work", in Pamplona, northern Spain, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, while protesting with others against the new measures against the coronavirus in the Navarra province where all bar and restaurants will be closed for 15 days from midnight Wednesday. (AP PhotoAlvaro Barrientos)

“I want to be very clear,” Illa said Tuesday. “Some very hard weeks are coming.”

Follow AP pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

People hold up banners in support of the hotel industry: "We want to Work", left, in Pamplona, northern Spain, Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2020, while protesting against the new measures against the coronavirus in the Navarra province where all bar and restaurants will be closed for 15 days from midnight Wednesday. (AP PhotoAlvaro Barrientos)