Coronavirus deaths in Spain fall to two-month low

Spain on Sunday reported 87 coronavirus deaths over a 24-hour period, the first time in two months that the daily toll has dropped below 100.

Coronavirus deaths in Spain fall to two-month low

The number came a day before Spain is to further relax lockdown measures across the country, except in Madrid and Barcelona.    

“For the first time in a long time we are below 100, which is good news,” said the head of the emergency health centre Fernando Simon.    

At the height of the current outbreak in early April, Spain counted 950 deaths in one day.

Spain remains one of the countries hardest hit by the virus with a total of 27,650 deaths, the health ministry reported on Sunday. The number of confirmed cases is more than 231,000.

Spain was now “very close” to putting an end to the transmission of the virus, thanks to the efforts of the population, said Simon.   

He warned, however, that the danger of a second wave of infections was “still very big”.

For that reason, the government wanted “to reinforce the compulsory nature of face mask wearing”, Health Minister Salvador Illa said.   

A decree on the subject will be published in the coming days, he added. Wearing a mask is already obligatory on public transport.

Protests spread

Protests in Salamanca district in Madrid- Photo: AFP

Spain last Monday began a three-phase plan to end lockdowns for half the country by the end of June. The lockdown measures initially imposed were among the strictest in Europe.

Some 70 percent of the population will have emerged from lockdown this coming week.

Outdoor seating in bars and restaurants will be allowed again, as well as family reunions and meetings between friends up to 10 people.   

But people living in Madrid and much of the neighbouring Castile y Leon region are to remain confined next week, as are the inhabitants of Barcelona.   

Small shops, however, will be allowed to reopen.   

Nevertheless, for several days now there have been protests against the government of Socialist Prime Ministers Pedro Sanchez, in one of Madrid's most affluent districts.

Those demonstrations spread this weekend to other districts of the capital and to the city of Salamanca, in Castile y Leon region.   

In the meantime, to avoid importing new cases, entry to Spain by air or sea will be limited to Spanish citizens, residents and a small number of others, all of whom will have to quarantine themselves for 14 days.

READ MORE:  MAP: Which phase is my province in and what activities are allowed?

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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.