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COVID-19

Coronavirus in Spain: Where are the worst and least affected regions?

With more than 40,000 cases confirmed and approaching 3,000 deaths across Spain, some regions are worse hit than others.

Coronavirus in Spain: Where are the worst and least affected regions?

Madrid has been stealing the limelight for all the wrong the reasons.  Its hospitals are at crisis point. The virus has ripped through its elderly care homes. The city’s exhibition centre was transformed into a gigantic field hospital within 72 hours and the ice rink has been requisitioned for use as a morgue.

Yes, as Spain’s capital and the nation’s most populated city it is hardly surprising that it has the lion’s share of cases but the data is still disproportionate. The number of dead in Madrid accounts for more than half the coronavirus deaths across the entire country.

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Early outbreaks were detected in Madrid and the Basque Country where the spread of the virus was quick and focused.

But when the government took the decision to close the schools in the capital in a bid to contain the contagion, it may inadvertently have helped spread it.

Faced with the prospect of being cooped up in the confines of a small city apartment, many families took the decision to flee the capital and head either to their holiday home if they had one or back to their ‘pueblos’ were at least there would be family to help with childcare.

So how is the rest of Spain faring?

 

The number of cases in Spain has reached 40,000 with over 2,696 deaths by Monday March 24th. Data: Spain's Health Ministry

Within a few days of the Madrid schools closing but before a general lockdown had been imposed on the nation, cases had been recorded in each of the 17 regions of Spain as well the two city enclaves in North Africa.

The first cases reported in Spain back in early February were on its islands and were ‘imported’; one in a German tourist visiting the Canary Island of La Gomera and a case in a British national who became infected while holidaying with a group at a ski resort in the French Alps before returning to his home in Mallorca. These cases were contained at the time and led to no further infections.

But fast forward six weeks and no-one talks about who caught the virus from whom anymore as Spain approaches 40,000 confirmed cases – although as testing in not widespread and mostly only counts for those who are treated in hospital the true number of infected is likely to be far higher.

Madrid has by far the most number of cases, the region home to the bustling capital of 6.5 million had by Monday lost 1,535 people to coronavirus, 60 percent of 2,696 deaths nationwide although its ‘doubling time’ – the time it takes for the number of cases to double stands at around 5.5 days.

Catalonia, a region of 7.5 million has so far recorded 282 deaths with 7,864 confirmed cases although it has one of the fastest doubling times of 3.3 days according to El Pais.

The Basque Country, which has population of just under 2.2 million has the third highest number of cases in the whole of Spain thanks to an early outbreak that spread rapidly in Vitoria.

Andalusia, the region with the largest population in Spain (8.4 million) and second only in geographical size to Castilla-Leon  has relatively few cases considering the size of the population with 2,471 and only 87 dead.

Castilla-La Mancha and Castilla-Leon have the next highest confirmed cases, with close to 2,500 in each although the number of deaths in the former region (216) is almost twice that of the latter (124).

The Comunidad de Valencia also recorded over 2,000 cases amid complaints that they received many Madrileños escaping to their holiday homes on the Mediterranean coast before the country went on lockdown. But they also had an early spike following the return of football fans from a Champions League match against Atalanta held in Milan. The number of deaths there have now reached over 115.

Navarra has a relatively high number of cases considering its population of under 650,000 with just over 1,000 confirmed cases and 31 deaths and neighbouring Rioja counts a similar death toll with 800 confirmed cases.

Both regions border the Basque Country and experienced outbreaks linked to the early one recorded in Vitoria.

Murcia, which complained about hordes of Madrileños coming down to the beach once schools closed has seen releatively few cases with 385 confirmed and 3 deaths.

The Balearic Islands and Canary Islands each have around 500 cases confirmed with ten deaths in the Balearics and 16 across the Atlantic Archipelago.

The region of Galicia in the northwest has over 1,400 recorded cases and twenty deaths while neighbouring Asturias has seen 22 deaths with just 662 confirmed cases. Cantabria reports a death toll of nine with under 500 confirmed cases.

While Ceuta and Melilla, Spain’s north African enclaves have yet to report deaths and the number of confirmed cases remains few.  Both territories have seen the borders closed with neighbouring Morocco and ferry services to the mainland halted.

 

 

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COVID-19

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.

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