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COVID-19

Spain rules out another nationwide lockdown even as new cases soar

Spain’s Health Minister Salvador Illa has insisted a new lockdown is not imminent even as the number of cases across Spain, and particularly in Madrid, soar.

Spain rules out another nationwide lockdown even as new cases soar
Photo: AFP

“We are not going to make generalized measures,” he said. “Instead we have to focus on early and act with proportionate forcefulness.”

Madrid is once again at the epicentre of the virus spread recording a third of all new cases across the nation, prompting calls that there should a confinement should be put in place to stop people travelling and spreading the virus.

But in an interview on Thursday morning, the health chief also ruled out placing restrictions on movement from Madrid insisting that it wasn’t viable.

“A perimeter lockdown is not appropriate right now,” Illa said about Madrid in an interview with Cadena SER.

 

His statement came in response to a demand by Emiliano García-Page, the regional premier of Castilla-La Mancha who blames a rise in infections within his region on those coming from the capital.

On Wednesday, new restrictions were placed on two cities in  Castilla y León, Salamanca and Valladolid, after a surge in new cases was recorded.

Regional authorities have imposed restrictions that include limiting capacities in bars and restaurants, capping social gatherings and stopping contact sports, effectively returning the cities to the rules in place during Phase 1 of the de-escalation plan.

But Illa insisted that although concerning, the situation in Madrid, where no new restrictions have been imposed, was under control.

“We are in a scenario of control,” said Illa.“We are seeing an increase in cases, but it has no comparison with what we went through in March, there is no overload of the system.”

“We have to take certain actions, as we are doing,” he added.


The evolution of the coronavirus in Spain since February showing a second wave with the number of new cases rising since July. and below since lockdown restrictions were lifted in June. 

On Wednesday the Health Ministry reported 8,581 new cases of the coronavirus in Spain. Of the 3,663 detected in the previous 24 hours, more than a third (1,362) were detected in Madrid.


Data from the European Centre for Disease Protection and Control (ECDC)

According to the ECDC the 14-day accumulated incidence of coronavirus cases registered in Spain now stands at 213.3 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, far exceeding the figure of the next highest rate of 91 recorded France and is far above the figure of 24 for the UK and Italy.

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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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