efe-epaMadrid Desk

British war veteran Captain Tom Moore is to be given a knighthood by Queen Elizabeth II after he managed to raise more than 32 million pounds ($39.2m) for the National Health Service by walking 100 laps of his garden on the lead up to his 100th birthday in April.

Capt. Tom, who quickly rose to national hero status during the coronavirus lockdown, had set out to raise just 1,000 pounds for NHS charities after receiving treatment for skin cancer and a broken hip.

But his efforts caught the attention of a nation dealing with the Covid-19 health crisis and over 1.5 million people donated to his cause.

He will now be granted a knighthood following a special recommendation from Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“On behalf of everyone who has been moved by his incredible story, I want to say a huge thank you. He's a true national treasure,” Johnson said in a statement.

In a statement on Twitter, Capt. Tom said: “I am absolutely overwhelmed. Never for one moment could I have imagined I would be awarded with such a great honour. I’d like to thank Her Majesty The Queen, the Prime Minister and the Great British public. I will remain at your service.”

Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party said Tom “embodied the national solidarity which has grown throughout this crisis.”

While Johnson and Starmer shared praise for the World War II veteran, their political differences in the House of Commons were laid out once again Wednesday.

Johnson pledged to have a world-class Covid-19 track and trace system in place by 1 June with 25,000 contact tracers able to detect 10,000 new cases a day.

Starmer asked why the program had not come earlier.

A further 363 people died from coronavirus in the last 24 hours in the UK, according to the government’s latest figures, bringing the total since the outbreak began to 35,704, the highest toll in Europe.

In Spain, another of Europe’s worst-hit nations, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez apologized for "errors" made by his government in the handling of the coronavirus health crisis but insisted that an extension to the current state of alarm was necessary to ensure progress was not lost.

He appeared before lawmakers in Parliament, where his Socialist Party-led coalition government needed approval to lengthen the state of alarm until at least 7 June.

"It is the Spanish people who have pushed back the virus, who have stopped the virus together, and no one has the right to waste what we have achieved,” he said.

The small center-right Ciudadanos party said it would back the extension although Sánchez had to shrink the requested period from a month to two weeks. The government has not ruled out requesting another two-week extension.

But it has come up against staunch opposition in the chamber in the form of the Popular Party, the main conservative outfit in Spain, and Vox, far-right newcomers.

PP leader Pablo Casado on Wednesday described the prime minister as a “headless chicken” who kept changing from one political allegiance to another.

From Wednesday everyone over the age of six will have to wear a face mask in enclosed public spaces and on the street if a distance of two meters between others is not possible.

The use of masks had until now only been obligatory on public transport.

People with breathing problems will be exempt.

Health authorities said 95 people had died from coronavirus in the last 24 hours, a slight increase from 83 the previous day, but in line with the general downward trend and under 100 for the fourth consecutive day. The total number of fatalities in Spain stood at 27,888.

Authorities in Italy, which is now starting to gradually ease its lockdown as it exits one of the worst Covid-19 health crises in Europe, said 161 people had died from the disease since Tuesday, bringing the overall total to 32,330.

With the pandemic coming under control, the Mediterranean nation is looking toward opening its borders once again in a bid to salvage the tourism sector, one of the pillars of the economy.

Transport minister Paola De Micheli said airports would open again from 3 June.

"It will be possible to start the reopening of all airports starting on 3 June, when regional and international travel will be allowed again and all limitations on public transport will end," she told lawmakers. EFE-EPA

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