The Spanish vocab you need to understand the coronavirus crisis

Struggling to keep up with the latest coronavirus news in Spain? Here are the words you need to know.

The Spanish vocab you need to understand the coronavirus crisis
A football fan wearing a mask in light of the coronavirus outbreak waits for the start of El Clasico on Sunday. Photo: AFP
The basics

Let's start with an easy one: 'coronavirus' in Spanish is simply el coronavirus.

The scientific name for the new virus is the same in every language: Covid-19 but you will sometimes see it as SARS-CoV-2 especially in official notices from authorities.

Read all the latest here (paywall free) Coronavirus in Spain: How worried should you be?

la epidemia – epidemic

emergencia – emergency

el brote – the outbreak

infección – infection

transmisión – transmission

transmisión secundaria – person-to-person transmission

foco de contagios – hotspot, site with multiple cases of infection


Photo. AFP

Understanding the statistics:

suma de infectados – number of infected

los afectados – those affected

los ingresados – those admitted into hospital

los recuperados – recovered

muerto, fallecido – dead

aislamiento preventivo – preventative isolation

Unidad de Cuidados Intensivos – intensive care unit

situación clínica grave – serious condition

estado crítico – critical state

sintomatología leve – light symptoms

personas asintomáticas – people who have no symptoms (asymptomatic)

VIDEO: Five key questions about the coronavirus answered

Photo. AFP


Those people in Spain who have tested positive for the coronavirus are in isolation either at home or in hospital.

aislamiento preventivo – preventative isolation

aislado en su domicilio – self-isolation

una cuarentena – quarantine

Spain is also carrying out large-scale testing of people with possible symptoms of the virus.

pruebas – tests

positivo – positive

negativo – negative


These are the three symptoms that are associated with the coronavirus:

fiebre – A fever above 38C

Tos – a cough

sensación de falta de aire – shortness of breath.

Gripe: This word is slightly problematic to English speakers because it is used to describe either end of the scale of the most common winter ailment from a bad cold to a full on nasty dose of the flu.  You'll hear it bandied around now as people compare the coronvirus to the flu.

How to stay safe: 

Cubrirse la boca y la nariz con pañuelos desechables – If you sneeze or cough cover your mouth and nose with a disposable hanky (tissue) and then throw it away.

lavarse las manos – wash your hands

mascarilla – protective face masks are now very hard to get hold of in Spain, but the guidance is that only those who are suffering symptoms, or treating someone with symptoms needs to wear them.



Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 

Spain’s Health Ministry said Thursday there will be no mandatory vaccination in the country following the European Commission’s advice to Member States to “think about it” and Germany’s announcement that it will make vaccines compulsory in February.

Spain rules out EU's advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 
A Spanish man being vaccinated poses with a custom-made T-shirt showing Spain's chief epidimiologist Fernando Simón striking a 'Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood' pose over the words "What part of keep a two-metre distance don't you understand?' Photo: José Jordan

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday told journalists Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be voluntary in Spain given the “very high awareness of the population” with regard to the benefits of vaccination.

This follows the words of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, urging Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Is Spain proving facts rather than force can convince the unvaccinated?

“I can understand that countries with low vaccine coverage are contemplating this and that Von der Leyen is considering opening up a debate, but in our country the situation is absolutely different,” Darias said at the press conference following her meeting with Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council.

According to the national health minister,  this was also “the general belief” of regional health leaders of each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities she had just been in discussion with over Christmas Covid measures. 

READ MORE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Almost 80 percent of Spain’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a figure which is around 10 percent higher if looking at those who are eligible for the vaccine (over 12s). 

It has the highest vaccination rate among Europe’s most populous countries.

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain its fourth wave of Covid-19 aimed largely at the country’s unvaccinated people, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which the German parliament is due to vote on soon.

Austria has also already said it will make Covid-19 vaccines compulsory next February, Belgium is also considering it and Greece on Tuesday said it will make vaccination obligatory for those over 60.

But for Spain, strict Covid-19 vaccination rules have never been on the table, having said from the start that getting the Covid-19 jabs was voluntary. 

There’s also a huge legal implication to imposing such a rule which Spanish courts are unlikely to look on favourably. 

Stricter Covid restrictions and the country’s two states of alarm, the first resulting in a full national lockdown from March to May 2020, have both been deemed unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court. 

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

The Covid-19 health pass to access indoor public spaces was also until recently consistently rejected by regional high courts for breaching fundamental rights, although judges have changed their stance favouring this Covid certificate over old Covid-19 restrictions that affect the whole population.

MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

“In Spain what we have to do is to continue vaccinating as we have done until now” Darias added. 

“Spaniards understand that vaccines are not only a right, they are an obligation because we protect others with them”.

What Spanish health authorities are still considering is whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds after the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, with regions such as Madrid claiming they will start vaccinating their young children in December despite there being no official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccine Committee yet.

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s infection rate continues to rise day by day, jumping 17 points up to 234 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. There are now also five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country, one through community transmission.

Hospital bed occupancy with Covid patients has also risen slightly nationwide to 3.3 percent, as has ICU Covid occupancy which now stands at 8.4 percent, but the Spanish government insists these figures are “almost three times lower” than during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic.