Death toll falls again in Spain as PM considers another lockdown extension

Spain's daily death toll from the coronavirus fell on Wednesday to 523, after posting a one-day rise, bringing the total number of fatalities to 18,579, the health ministry said.

Death toll falls again in Spain as PM considers another lockdown extension
Pedro Sanchez addresses the first question time session since lockdown began. Photo: AFP

The number of new confirmed infections in the country, one of the worst hitby the pandemic, rose by over 5,000, after falling for six consecutive days, which lifts the total number of infections to over 177,000.


The data shows that 70,853 people have now made a full recovery with 3,349 more in the last 24 hours.



Madrid is the region that has been hit the hardest with  most cases with 49,526 confirmed cases and more than a third of the deaths (6,724 of the nationwide total 18,579).

However regional authorities confirmed on Wednesday that the death toll is in fact much higher because only those who died after testing positive have been included in the official data.

Enrique Ruiz Escudero, regional head of Madrid health ministry said the total number of those who have died from covid-19 in Madrid was likely to be over 10,000 once the 616 deaths in private homes and 2,820 deaths in nursing or elderly care homes were taken into account, many of which could be attributed to coronavirus although no testing was carried out.

Health authorities say Spain has overcome the peak of the coronavirus, after registering its highest daily death toll of 950 people on April 2, but warn against relaxing restrictions on the movement of people to curb the
spread of the virus. 

The government tightened the restrictions on March 30 by freezing all non-essential activities like construction and manufacturing for two weeks in a so-called “economic hibernation” — a measure that was lifted on Monday.

“We adopted difficult measures which are effective, which protect and save lives,” Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said Wednesday during a debate in parliament.

“As a result of this confinement, I am convinced that Spaniards will shortly recover a bit of normality…a new normality because nothing will be the same until a vaccine is found,” he added in response to criticism from the right over his handling of the pandemic.

The government estimates that about 67 percent of Spaniards are adhering strictly to the lockdown and hardly ever go outside since it was imposed. 

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez is expected to officially seek a further extension to the current ‘state of alarm’ lockdown in Spain until Sunday May 10th.


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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.