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HEALTH

Spain records highest one-day coronavirus death toll with 838 new fatalities

Spain has reached another grim milestone, with 838 people dying from the coronavirus across the country. The number eclipsed the previous highest mark recorded yesterday.

Spain records highest one-day coronavirus death toll with 838 new fatalities
Photo: GABRIEL BOUYS / AFP

From Friday to Saturday, Spain recorded 832 coronavirus deaths, an increase on the 769 fatalities recorded from Thursday to Friday in the country. 

The number of confirmed cases in Spain has now reached 78,797 — after an increase of 9.1 percent in one day — as the country battles the world's second most deadly outbreak. The number is fast approaching the figure of 81,400 in China, where the virus originated.

Spain is now one of the most heavily hit countries due to the virus, with more deaths than any other country besides Italy. The number of dead in Spain is now more than 6,500. 

Except for a brief lull recorded on Thursday, Spain's death toll has been rising daily.

However, officials have pointed to a slower growth rate for both deaths and confirmed cases and expressed hope that the peak of the outbreak was approaching.

Spain also reported Sunday that 14,709 people had been cured of COVID-19, a rise of 19.7 percent in 24 hours.

Like Italy, Spain on Saturday tightened measures to contain the outbreak, ordering a halt to all “non-essential” activities.

“All workers in non-essential economic activities must stay at home for two weeks,” Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said. The health, food and energy sectors are among areas considered to be essential.

An emergency cabinet meeting on Sunday was to decide on the details of the new measure.

Currently, people in Spain are authorised to leave home for work if remote work is not possible, to buy food, get medical care or briefly walk their dog.

Madrid

The capital of Madrid remains the most heavily-hit region in the country. 

An initial site was opened last week at the ice skating rink at the Palacio de Hielo (Ice Palace) shopping centre. With undertakers also overwhelmed, the government has authorised the army's involvement in the collection and transport of bodies for the duration of the state of emergency.

The latest figures came as Spain marked two weeks since the imposition of an unprecedented national lockdown which will remain in place until at least April 11.

On Saturday, Spain received a delivery of 1.2 million masks from China for health workers and those in the transport sector, the government said.

The delivery, which arrived at Madrid's Barajas airport, includes some 387,000 surgical masks for healthcare personnel, 75,000 masks for the security forces and more than 725,000 for those in the transport sector, from bus drivers to port and airport staff as well as those working for the postal service.

The current lockdown – one of the most severe in Europe – has been extended by the government until the 11th of April and is expected to be further extended. 

Spain's foreign minister told The Guardian that the government was considering introducing stricter controls if these were deemed necessary. 

Although Spain's latest figures showed a daily increase of more than 8,000 cases, the rate of new infections appears to be slowing, with officials saying the epidemic appeared to be nearing its peak. 

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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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