Spain is planning to widen coronavirus testing to include people without symptoms as a first step towards slowly easing a lockdown in the nation with the second highest death toll from the global pandemic.

As with worst-hit Italy, Spain has seen the rate of new infections and deaths slow in recent days, giving cause for hope that the peak has passed.

Today, its health ministry reported a fourth consecutive daily drop in the number of coronavirus-related deaths.

There were 637 fatalities recorded over the past 24 hours, a 5% daily increase on the total to 13,055, but down from 12% a week ago and the lowest total in 13 days.

The number of new infections also slowed, rising 3.3% to 135,032, down from a rise of 4.8% the day before.

"We are preparing ourselves for de-escalation for which it is important to know who is contaminated to be able to gradually lift Spanish citizens' lockdown," Spanish Foreign Minister Arancha Gonzalez told TV station Antena 3.

While so far only those infected or suspected of having Covid-19 have been tested, now checks will focus on the wider population to try to find carriers who may not be displaying symptoms, Ms Gonzalez said.

Spanish companies are manufacturing 240,000 test kits per week and are boosting capacity, the minister said, while equipment is also being bought from abroad.

Spain has been in lockdown since 14 March and Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said at the weekend that that would remain in place until 26 April.

However, Mr Sanchez opened the door to easing some restrictions, such as keeping all non-essential workers at home, after Easter, even though shops and restaurants will stay shut.

Checkpoints were lifted today in four hard-hit towns in the northeastern Catalonia region, where there have been more than 100 deaths, the health ministry said.

Meanwhile, Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz said that his country could start easing its coronavirus lockdown measures from next week, but warned that this depended on citizens abiding by social distancing rules.

"The aim is that from 14 April ... smaller shops up to a size of 400 square metres, as well as hardware and garden stores can open again, under strict security conditions of course," Mr Kurz said at a press conference.

He added that if the government's timetable goes to plan, larger shops will reopen on 1 May and from mid-May, hotels, restaurants and other services could also start to open their doors again in stages.