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COVID-19

CHARTS: How Spain’s infection rates look ahead of Christmas

Spain seemed to have found success in flattening the curve of its second coronavirus wave, with data showing that infections had been on a downward trend since the peak in early November.

CHARTS: How Spain's infection rates look ahead of Christmas
Photo: AFP

However, the latest figures from the Spanish Health Ministry showed an upturn with infections rising week on week for the first time since November 2, the date seen as the peak of the second wave across Spain.

 

Data published on Monday showed that 21,309 new coronavirus cases have been registered since Friday, 3,628 more than last Monday and 1,330 more than the Monday before that.

The 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants which had been steadily falling from its peak of 529.43 on November 9th but is on the rise again.

It now stands at 193.6 cases per 100,000 people, up from 189 on Friday, which is more than three times the rate of 60, which is when the EU considers a pandemic under control.

However the data shows that Spain is in a much better position than many other countries across Europe, with infection rates far below the UK, Germany, France and Italy.

It remains over 200 in eight regions: Aragón (227.93), Asturias (222.33), the Balearic Islands (280.13), Cantabria (242.31), Castilla La Mancha (228.40), Madrid (227.23), the Basque Country (268.46) and La Rioja (212.12) – as well as in the autonomous city of Melilla (227.78).

The hospital occupancy rate of Covid-19 patients has also increased slightly after falling nonstop since November 16th.

Coronavirus patients now occupy 9.61 percent of all hospital beds across Spain.

The Health Ministry added 389 Covid-19-related fatalities to the official toll, which now stands at 48,013.

The rise is particularly noticeable in the Balearic Islands, which have gone from being the region with the second-lowest incidence rate in all of Spain to having a 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants of 280.

The rise in infections has prompted authorities there to toughen regional restrictions over Christmas imposing a 10pm curfew for the next fortnight, even on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.

Fernando Simón, Spain’s chief epidemiologist referred to the rise as a “stabilization in the ongoing fall” as the latest data was announced on Monday evening.

“It is probably due to the relaxation of some measures before Constitution Day,” he said, in reference to the four day public holiday between 5 and 9 December.

“The risk of overwhelming the system because of any small rise is higher than we would like it to be,” he added.

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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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