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COVID-19

Spain sees slight decline in number of new coronavirus deaths

Spain confirmed another 812 deaths in 24 hours from the coronavirus on Monday, a slight decline on the previous day's toll, bringing the total number of deaths to 7,340.

Spain sees slight decline in number of new coronavirus deaths
A health worker walks outside the San Carlos Clinic Hospital in Madrid Photo: AFP

The country, which has the world's second most deadly outbreak after Italy, recorded 838 deaths from the pandemic on Sunday, its third straight daily record for coronavirus deaths.

The growth in the number of new confirmed cases also slowed, posting a one-day rise of 8.0 percent to 85,195, according to the health ministry, compared to a 20-percent rise on Wednesday.

However, Spain has now joined the United States and Italy in having more cases than China, where the virus first appeared in December and which had confirmed 81,439 cases as of Sunday evening.

The breakdown of the cases by region, including the number of hospitalised, dead and recovered was published on Monday morning:

 

 

 

Spain's healthcare system is struggling to cope with the surge of seriously ill patients all at once, with hotels and conference centres being used as temporary clinics and Madrid's largest ice ink turned into a provisional
morgue.   

“While the isolation measures have reduced the pressure on intensive care units, in the coming weeks it will be significant,” said Maria Jose Sierra of the health ministry's emergencies centre in reference to the lockdown measures the country has imposed.

The medical director of Barcelona's Hospital Clinic, Antoni Castells, said his staff would soon have to start to “rationalise the resources it uses based on the possibility that a patient will survive.”

“The situation gets more complicated each day,” he added in an interview with Spanish public radio RNE.

The outbreak is also taking its toll on healthcare personnel, who complain of a lack of masks and other protective material.    

As of Monday, over 12,200 medical staff were infected, up from around 9,500 on Friday, according to the health ministry. 

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'Great risk'

Jesus Maria Garcia, a nurse at the Ronda Hospital in the southern province of Malaga, said staff were using paper masks instead of FFP2 masks, which filter most particles and which health care workers need to wear when dealing
with infected patients.   

“To get a FPP2, you have to fight with someone,” he told AFP by telephone.    “They have been telling us the same thing for 10 days now, that soon material will arrive. I don't believe it anymore.”

He said two-thirds of the hospital was dedicated to coronavirus patients, with confirmed cases on one floor and suspected cases on another.    

“There are people who come for other reasons and they face a great risk” of being infected with coronavirus, Garcia said.    

Spain imposed a near-total nationwide lockdown on March 14 to try to curb the spread of the virus, banning people from leaving their homes except to go to work if remote work is not possible, buy food, get medical care or briefly
walk their dog.   

Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez on Saturday followed the example of Italy and tightened measures to contain the outbreak even further by ordering a halt to all “non-essential” activities for two weeks.

The health, food and energy sectors are among areas considered to be essential but other sectors, including construction and most office work will be 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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