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COVID-19

Coronavirus: EU warns healthcare capacity could be exceeded

The risk is high that European healthcare systems will be overwhelmed by the new coronavirus outbreak, the EU's health agency warns.

Coronavirus: EU warns healthcare capacity could be exceeded
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm. Photo: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) also called for a slew of measures to be implemented to halt the spread of the deadly disease – including quarantines of confirmed or suspected carriers and bans on mass gatherings.

The Stockholm-based agency said on Thursday that systems in EU countries and the European Economic Area (EAA) – Iceland, Lichtenstein and Norway – along with Britain could be overstretched.

“The risk of healthcare system capacity being exceeded in the EU/EAA and the UK in the coming weeks is considered high,” the ECDC said in a statement.

It also recommended “social distancing” measures at workplaces and cancellation of non-essential work travel and meetings, as well as measures to be taken at schools, including possible closures.

And it urged “cordon… of residential areas with high levels of community transmission”.

Meanwhile, the EU Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Stella Kyriakides, said in a Twitter post that measures to curb the spread of the disease were “more than ever necessary across EU”.

“Only with aggressive containment action can we delay the transmission of COVID-19. Many member states have already taken far-reaching measures, impacting the daily lives of our citizens and economy,” Kyriakides said.

There are more than 22,000 people infected in Europe, where nearly 950 people have died from the illness. The vast majority, however, experience only mild symptoms and fully recover.

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COVID-19

Health experts advise end of masks on public transport in Spain

Spanish health experts have advised the government that the use of masks should no longer be obligatory on public transport, but no concrete date has yet been set.

Health experts advise end of masks on public transport in Spain

Health experts who advise the Spanish Ministry of Health have said that masks should no longer be mandatory on public transport, but with the caveat that the government should first wait and observe the epidemiological situation in China, which has experienced a surge in case numbers since it abandoned its strict ‘Zero Covid’ strategy at the end of 2022, following widespread civil unrest.

The use of masks on public transport has now been the norm in Spain for almost three years, since the start of the pandemic. 

Speaking to Ser Canarias, Darias said: “We are getting closer and closer [to the end of having to wear a mask], but we will have to see how things evolve in order to make that decision; obviously the epidemiological situation is getting better and better, but we have to see how the issue of China evolves”. 

Reports in the Spanish press suggest some kind of agreement was made during a meeting between the government and the experts in December that masks would no longer be compulsory after assessing the situation in China, however, there is still no fixed date.

Back in October 2022, Spain’s ‘Emergency Unit’ suggested that mask rules would not be reviewed until March 2023 at the earliest, but more recently it said that it does not seem necessary to wait for March to remove the mask rule. 

According to recent Ministry of Health figures, just 2.79 percent of hospital beds in Spain are taken up by Covid-19 patients.

READ ALSO: Face masks to remain mandatory on public transport in Spain until March 2023

The use of masks indoors in Spain ceased to be mandatory on April 20th, 2022, after almost two years, however, they have remained mandatory in hospitals, pharmacies and, crucially, also on buses, metro, trains, planes and taxis.

While the mask rules have been strictly enforced in some places in Spain such as Seville and Valencia, in other cities such as Barcelona, many people refuse to wear them, despite the regulations still officially being in place. 

READ ALSO: Spain now requires Covid certificates for arrivals from China

In China, figures suggest that almost 60,000 people have died as a result of Covid-19 in a single month amid the spike in cases following the end of the country’s draconian restrictions. In response, Spain reintroduced health control checks for travellers arriving from China. 

It seems that Darias and the Spanish government are waiting to see how the situation plays out in China first, but all the indications and expert advice seems to suggest that masks will no longer be mandatory in public transport sometime very soon. 

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