The president of Madrid, the Spanish area hardest hit by the coronavirus, has said that “practically all the children” about to return to school in the region are likely to pick up the virus over the coming months.

Isabel Díaz Ayuso insisted that the necessary steps had been taken to make schools “very safe places”, but said such measures were not in place away from the classroom.

“Over the course of the school year, it’s likely that practically all the kids will get it one way or another,” she told esRadio on Wednesday.

“That’ll probably be because they pick it up over the weekend at a family gathering, or in the park in the afternoon, or from a classmate. We just don’t know because the virus can be anywhere.”

On Wednesday, the regional government contracted a private company to begin testing 100,000 school staff for Covid-19 antibodies as families prepare for a staggered return to school over the coming days.

Teaching unions criticised the short notice given for the test, which led to huge queues as staff lined up around test centres.

Spain recorded 8,115 new cases of Covid-19 on Tuesday evening, 2,731 of them diagnosed in the previous 24 hours, according to the latest figures from the national health ministry.

Over the past seven days, 159 people have died from the virus, bringing the death toll to 29,152.

The latest statistics bring the country’s total to 470,973 cases, of which 99,889 have been logged over the past fortnight. Of those 99,899 cases, 31,947 are in the Madrid region.

Both the prime minister and the centre of Spain’s centre for health emergencies have expressed concern over the situation in Madrid this week.

On Tuesday, Madrid’s city council announced that the capital’s 3,800 parks and green spaces would be closed from 10pm until 6am in an effort to halt the spread of the virus. Police in Madrid are also cracking down on botellónes, or street drinking parties, which can facilitate the spread of the virus.

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