How worried should we be about the coronavirus resurgence in Spain?

So how worried should we be about the resurgence in coronavirus infections in Spain? The Conversation asked an expert what these numbers mean, and how Spanish health authorities should respond.

How worried should we be about the coronavirus resurgence in Spain?

Coronavirus is back in large numbers across Europe. Since governments began to lift lockdowns at the start of the European summer, positive cases of COVID-19 have been steadily increasing in countries that previously had the spread of the disease under control, including Spain, France, Italy and Germany.

In recent days, France has recorded its highest daily tally of the new cases since the height of the pandemic in April, while Spain faces the continent’s most significant resurgence in infections. 

In the UK, certain areas have been placed into local lockdowns to stem the spread of the virus, as schools begin to reopen across its four countries, though the government says rates remain flatoutside the locked down hotspots.

Most epidemiologists are reluctant to call this rise in cases a “second wave”, arguing that it is too early to say what is happening. It appears that at least some of the rise is concentrated among younger people and asymptomatic cases, and we don’t yet know why death rates are not climbing at the same rates as positive diagnoses. Countries are not yet seeing hospitals or healthcare facilities overwhelmed, as they were at the start of the pandemic.

So how worried should Europeans be about this resurgence in infections? The Conversation asked experts in Spain, France and the UK what these numbers mean, and how health authorities should respond.


Ignacio López-Goñi, Professor of Microbiology, University of Navarra

In the worst moments of the pandemic – between the end of March and the beginning of April – more than 900 deaths per day were registered from COVID-19 in Spain. 

Strict confinement measures reduced the number of cases (defined as a positive result in a PCR test) to a minimum of a few hundred daily in mid-June. However, in recent weeks, Spain has reported a significant increase in the number of daily cases. A graph showing deaths from coronavirus in Spain.

Assessing the situation is complex if we consider the difficulty of monitoring the data. For starters, there is no consensus on COVID-19 case definition between countries. In addition, there are incomprehensible data discrepancies between Spain’s autonomous communities and the federal ministry. It is thus proving very difficult to find updated data on the number of hospitalised cases and deaths, which are the most important figures we need to interpret the situation.

It is not possible to compare the situation in April with that of today. Back then, Spain performed few PCRs, which were intended only to confirm the diagnosis in symptomatic, hospitalised and severe cases. For this reason, only the tip of the iceberg was detected. Now, however, detection protocols have been tightened and all close contacts of each new positive case are subjected to testing, regardless of whether or not they develop symptoms. Since thousands of PCRs are being done, we can now detect the submerged part of the iceberg.

The detection of isolated outbreaks from asymptomatic cases at this time does not seem alarming. In fact, it is something that could be expected considering that we have been confined for three months and that only a small percentage of the Spanish population came into contact with the virus during that time. But although the situation is not alarming, the trend can be described as very worrying, given the fact that new outbreaks are detected every week.

On one hand, it is reassuring to think that, at the moment, the virus appears to be relatively stable and is not accumulating mutations that affect its virulence – more deadly second waves in some influenza pandemics were associated with genetic changes in the virus. 

But what is disturbing is that we are facing a new virus for which, in principle, the population does not present immunity. That could favour the appearance of a new wave. What we cannot rule out is that some of the outbreaks that are detected now end up getting out of control and causing bigger problems. Hence, the importance of strengthening control. 

On the part of individuals, this is about preventing contagion at all costs with masks, social distancing and good hygiene, in addition to trying to avoid crowded, indoor spaces where many people are close together for a long time.

As for the health authorities, they have no choice but to take the lead. The virus does not care if we call this an outbreak, a flare-up or a second wave. The virus does not recognise our internal or external borders. We need coordination, tracking, quarantine and isolation, and the strengthening of our primary care system. And we must by all means necessary avoid the virus reaching our hospitals again.

Regardless of whether there is a second wave, adding SARS-CoV-2 to the list of viruses and bacteria that cause respiratory infections during the winter could be a very serious problem. Since no vaccine will be available this winter, we must prepare for the worst.


This article is republished from the The Conversation under Creative Commons licence. Read the original article here 

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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.