Ambulances medical staff deliver a patient wearing protection masks at Cruces hospital, in Bilbao, northern Spain, Saturday, March 21, 2020. Image Credit: AP

Madrid: Spain's coronavirus death toll rose by 838 cases overnight to 6,528 the health ministry said on Saturday, marking the highest daily rise in fatalities.

The total number of those infected rose to 78,797 from 72,248 on Saturday

Spain reported record coronavirus fatalities for a second day as the daily mortality rate neared that of Italy with governments across Europe considering additional measures to contain a pandemic that shows little sign of abating.

Spain said 832 people died from coronavirus in the last 24 hours, its deadliest day since the outbreak began, while Italy on Friday reported a record toll of 969. The two countries have almost 15,000 deaths combined, more than half the world total.

Spain and Italy have been in almost total lockdown. Citizens are confined to their homes, except for essential activities such as buying food and medicine. Health Minister Salvador Illa warned on Friday that the pandemic has yet to reach its peak in Spain.

In Germany, where cases and deaths are also on the rise, Chancellor Angela Merkel said there was little chance the country's own restrictions would be eased before April 20. Cases in Europe's biggest economy have been rising twofold every 5 1/2 days and she said lockdown conditions can only be loosened once cases don't double within a 10-day period.

"The number of new infections doesn't give reason to ease the rules," Merkel said in her podcast Saturday.

The outbreak is stretching health-care system across Europe. Madrid has set up a temporary hospital in the Spanish capital's main conference center and is using an ice rink as a temporary morgue. In the U.K., where Prime Minister Boris Johnson has contracted the virus, London's Excel stadium will be converted into a hospital and new treatment centers are planned for Birmingham and Manchester.

Undertakers take a moment while a priest and family, not seen, pray during the burial of an elderly victim of the COVID-19 at the Almudena cemetery in Madrid, Spain, Saturday March 28, 2020. In Spain, where stay-at-home restrictions have been in place for nearly two weeks, the official number of deaths is increasing daily. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. Image Credit: AP

A shortage of space in intensive care units could aggravate the death count in Spain after the number patients in ICU exceeded existing capacity for the first time. Patients in ICU rose by 410 to 4,575, topping capacity of 4,404.

European leaders are also scrambling to come up with a joint response to fight the outbreak and limit the economic fallout from the pandemic. France and Italy are pushing for more comprehensive measures, such as issuing joint debt to cope with the crisis. Germany has so far resisted that proposal.

Speaking in interviews with various newspapers, French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte stepped up their demands for coordinated action, which could set up a confrontation with Germany and other northern countries reminiscent of the sovereign debt crisis.

"We won't overcome this crisis without strong European solidarity, both on the health front and on the budget front," Macron told three Italian newspapers. "If Europe isn't capable of rising to the challenge, the whole European project risks losing legitimacy in the eyes of our citizens," Conte said in a separate interview with Il Sole 24 Ore.

One glimmer of hope emerged from Spain's numbers on Saturday; the rate of new infections slowed for a third consecutive day. Total infections in Spain rose by 8,189 to 72,248 people, an increase of 13%.