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Photo: Miquel Benitez/Getty Images

Spain exceeded 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases on Wednesday, becoming the first country in Western Europe to hit the milestone, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The state of play: Spain, which reported 16,973 cases over the previous 24 hours, was one of the most affected countries when the pandemic started, and cases have been on the rise since September, according to NPR.

  • Experts say the true number of cases and deaths is likely bigger than what's been reported due to insufficient testing, low hospitalization and asymptomatic cases, AP writes.

The big picture: The country has tightened restrictions as the case count surges.

  • Earlier Wednesday, the regional government of northern Aragón announced it closed city limits of Zaragoza, Huesca and Teruel
  • The Spanish government ordered a partial lockdown in Madrid on Oct. 1, but was met with resistance from the regional government, which said the lockdown was "not legally valid," BBC reports.
  • Regional governments in Navarra and La Rioja are also preparing to close their borders this week.

On Tuesday, Spain's Health Ministry warned that the government may decree a national state of emergency, La Vanguardia reports.

  • "Some very hard weeks are coming," the national Health Minister Salvador Illa said. "The second wave is not longer a threat, but a reality in all of Europe."

What to watch: Illa plans to meet with health officials across the region on Thursday to discuss further virus strategies.

Go deeper

Federal watchdog finds lack of data, resources impede COVID response

A patient rests in a COVID-19 care site in a parking garage at Renown Regional Medical Center, Reno, Nevada, on Dec. 16. Photo: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images

National data on COVID-19 testing is incomplete, "critical gaps in the medical supply chain" remain, and a lack of data has stalled delivering key resources to people who need it most, a nonpartisan federal watchdog, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), has found.

Why it matters: The findings come as the rise of more contagious variants ensures that Americans’ risk remains high, despite a three-week decline in the number of COVID infections in the U.S. A greater number of people are also dying from the coronavirus over less time.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Jan 29, 2021 - World

The global line for coronavirus vaccines stretches back to 2023

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

There’s a wild scramble at the front of the line for COVID-19 vaccines, with the EU discussing export bans and legal action to ensure its supply speeds up in the coming months.

The flipside: The back of the line likely stretches to 2023 and beyond. Almost no low-income countries have managed to begin distribution in earnest, and total vaccinations in all of continental sub-Saharan Africa currently number in the dozens.

Jan 28, 2021 - Health

South Carolina reports first-known U.S. cases of South African COVID variant

A health care worker giving a patient a dose of coronavirus vaccine in an assisted living home in Sumter, S.C., on Jan. 26. Photo: Micah Green/Bloomberg via Getty Images

South Carolina health officials have reported the first-known U.S. COVID-19 cases of a fast-spreading variant discovered in South Africa, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on Thursday.

Why it matters: Though the CDC has "no evidence that infections by this variant cause more severe disease," preliminary data indicates it may spread faster and more easily than other variants.