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COVID-19

Spain records deadliest day yet but rate of new coronavirus cases slows

Spain set another record in the number of coronavirus deaths on Wednesday with 864 confirmed fatalities in the previous 24 hours. However the rate of new coronavirus infections continued to slow.

Spain records deadliest day yet but rate of new coronavirus cases slows
Members of the Military Emergencies Unit (UME) use a lift as they carry out a general disinfection at the Sant Antoni extended care facility in Barcelona. Photo: AFP

The coronavirus death toll in Spain surged over 9,000 on Wednesday after a record 864 deaths in 24 hours, with the number of confirmed cases passing the 100,000 mark, the government said.

The number of dead reported to have died from coronavirus within 24 hours on Wednesday beat the previous record of 849 that was reported on Tuesday.

Experts claim Spain is close to hitting its peak and authorities expect to see a drop in the number of cases if lockdown, which is now in the third week in Spain, has been effective.

Spain has the world's second-highest death toll after Italy, with the virus so far claiming 9,053 lives and the number of confirmed cases reaching 102,136, although the rate of new infections continued its downward trend, health ministry figures showed.

In total  5,872 coronavirus patients are being treated in Intensive Care Units (ICU) across Spain.

But in good news, the number of those who have recovered from the virus has risen to 22,647 across the whole of Spain, including a 101-year-old woman in Aragon, who was discharged after spending two weeks in hospital in Huesca.

On a day-to-day basis, the rate of new infections continued its downward trend, showing an increase of just over 8.0 percent, compared with nearly 11 percent on Tuesday, health ministry figures showed.

This compared to the data between March 15th and 25th – the period immediately after the lockdown was put in place – when new cases were growing at a rate of 20 percent a day.

And the death rate has also slowed, from 27 percent a week ago to 10.5 percent on Wednesday, with officials saying the data appear to show the epidemic is reaching its peak.

Health officials believe the figures show a “trend change” that is positive.

María José Sierra of Spain’s centre for health emergencies, who has stepped in to lead the daily press conferences since Fernando Simón tested positive to the coronavirus, said the latest figures showed that the situation was continuing to level out.

“Generally speaking, we can say that yesterday’s rise in cases – which was around 8 percent – tells us that we’re carrying on in the stabilisation phase of the pandemic,” she said on Wednesday morning.

“The figures when it comes to both the number of people in ICUs and the number of people who have died are really telling us what happened two or three weeks ago, when people became infected,” she added.

But officials have warned that even if the epidemic is peaking, the pressure on the intensive care system would be subject to a lag of at least a week or longer, with hospitals likely to reach crisis point by the end of this week or early next.

Madrid remains the worst-hit region, with 3,865 deaths and nearly 30,000 cases, leaving hospitals and mortuaries overwhelmed.

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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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