Spain’s health ministry confirmed deaths have nearly doubled overnight, rising from 47 on Wednesday to 84 today, while the number of cases rose to 2,968 up from 2,140 on Wednesday. It comes at the same time the country’s Parliament was suspended for 15 days after a high-profile minister was diagnosed with the coronavirus. 

The country has stepped up its response to the crisis, closing nurseries, schools and universities in and around Madrid and the Basque capitals as panic spreads across the globe. 

Schools will shut down for two weeks in Catalonia, the Basque Country, Galicia and Murcia, after a shutdown was put in place in the wider Madrid region.

All football matches in Spain’s top two divisions have been postponed for two weeks over fears of the spread of the coronavirus, the league’s organising body said in a statement.

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez will hold all meetings via video conference starting from Thursday after fellow minister Irene Montero was diagnosed with the COVD-19 virus. 

Ms Montero’s partner Pablo Iglesias, who is deputy prime minister, was quarantined and all ministers were tested on Thursday morning.

A government statement said: “This morning, the rest of the cabinet will be tested and the results will be known this afternoon and will be reported officially.”

Mr Sanchez will head a reduced cabinet meeting on Thursday only attended by the ministers whose presence is needed to approve new measures against coronavirus spreading.

All further meetings will be held through video conference. 

The Royal Family will also be tested after Queen Letizia recently met with Montero.

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In Madrid, the impact of the virus and measures taken to combat it started being felt, with metro stations and bars unusually quiet.

José Manuel Gonzlez, a 58-year old manager of the Santa Barbara cafe said: “Business has gone down a lot, really a lot.

“It’s very quiet at lunchtime, things have dropped by 40 to 50 percent since the school shutdown. That’s when things started to change.”

Madrid health authorities asked people to donate blood, after a drop in blood donations over the past days.

Doctors in the capital have expressed their concerns they could run out of beds in intensive care units.

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