Spain has held a ceremony in memory of the almost 30,000 people who have died from the coronavirus pandemic in the country.
The memorial in the capital, Madrid, was attended by some 400 guests and led by King Felipe VI. High-ranking EU officials were also present, including European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, European Parliament President David Sassoli and European Council President Charles Michel.
Other prominent guests were the head of the World Health Organization, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. Several relatives of victims and health workers were also in attendance.
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The Spanish government has voiced the hope that the ceremony will help set the scene positively for a two-day EU summit starting Friday. The summit is likely to see heated discussion over a proposed €750-billion ($850-billion) recovery package to support economies of member states, with several countries calling for the money to be disbursed not as grants, but as loans tied to binding economic reforms
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In addition to suffering one of the world's worst death tolls from the disease, Spain has been one of the countries hit hardest by the ensuing economic slump. It is only now emerging from a three-month lockdown with strict restrictions on people's freedom of movement.
Last month, Spain held 10 days of official mourning for coronavirus victims. The country has recorded 28,413 COVID-19 deaths, with 258,000 confirmed cases of the disease, but excess mortality figures suggest that the toll could be several thousand higher.
tj/sms (Reuters, AP)