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COVID-19

Coronavirus death toll in Spain climbs above 4,000

The number of people who have died in Spain as a result of the coronavirus has climbed above 4,000 as another 655 people died over night.

Coronavirus death toll in Spain climbs above 4,000
Mortuary employees wearing face masks wheel a coffin into the crematorium of La Almudena cemetery in Madrid

The coronavirus death toll in Spain surged to 4,089 after 655 people died within 24 hours, the health ministry said on Thursday.

It was a 19 percent increase on figures released on Wednesday. The number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose to 56,188 in Spain, which has the world's second highest death toll from the disease after Italy.

On Wednesday, Spain overtook China in the number of deaths officially attributed to the coronavirus.

But on the plus side, the rise in the number of new deaths was smaller than that recorded on Wednesday when the figure rose by 738 or 27 percent.   

In other good news, the data showed that 1,068 people had recovered in the last day and been discharged from hospital. 

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 rose to 56,188, the ministry said.

Despite a national lockdown imposed on March 14th, which parliament on Thursday agreed to extend until April 11th, both deaths and infections have continued to mount, with officials warning this week would be particularly bad.

Health authorities are hoping it will soon become clear whether the lockdown is having the desired effect.

Against that backdrop the improvement was more than welcomed as suggesting the authorities might just finally be making some progress.   

The recent figures “indicate a change in the trend… which make us think that we are starting to enter a phase of stabilisation,” Health Minister Salvador Illa said.

“If this general trend is confirmed… the number of cases may have neared its maximum, the peak ,” he added.

The Madrid region has suffered the brunt of the epidemic with 17,166 infections — just under a third of the total — and 2,090 deaths, or 51 percent of the national figure.

 

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, whose wife is infected with the virus, has said this is the country's most difficult moment since its 1936-39 civil war.    

“Only the oldest, who knew the hardships of the civil war and its aftermath, can remember collective situations that were harsher than the current one. The other generations in Spain have never, ever had to face as a collective something so hard,” he said when he imposed the state of emergency on March 14th.

Spain's demographics partly explain why it has been one of the worst-affected nations.

The country has one of the longest life expectancies in Europe and the pandemic has taken a high toll on its large elderly population, who are especially vulnerable to the disease.

With hospitals on the brink of collapse from the surge in patients, troops have set up a massive field hospital in Madrid's vast IFEMA exhibition centre which currently has 1,500 beds but which could be expanded to take in up to 5,500 people — making it the largest hospital in Spain.

And with the city's funeral services overwhelmed, officials have commandeered the Palacio de Hielo ice skating rink to serve as a temporary morgue.

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Member comments

  1. I appreciate greatly your daily updates. However, I think today’s headline about the doubling of figures since Sunday is leaning into fear mongering. I say this because while the numbers remains horrifying, Spain is no longer doubling its figures after 3 days. It’s now 4, almost 5 days, which suggests a pull back in the rate of the surge of new cases. People are fearful and anxious with good reason, but headlines shouldn’t tip the scales unnecessarily. Again, thank you for your good work at this tough time.

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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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