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COVID-19

Valencia region resists fourth wave as most of Spain sees infections spike

Although there has been a slight increase in cases in the eastern region after Easter, Alicante, Valencia and Castellón continue to have one of the lowest infection rates in Europe. 

Valencia region resists fourth wave as most of Spain sees infections spike
Malvarrosa Beach in Valencia. Photo: José Jordan/AFP

Spain’s Valencia region continues to have the lowest infection rate of all 17 autonomous communities in Spain with a cumulative fortnightly infection rate of 36 cases per 100,000 inhabitants on April 12th. 

This is slightly higher than the rate of 31 cases per 100,000 The Local reported three weeks ago when covering what was behind Valencia’s success, but the Mediterranean region continues to have one of the lowest rates of prevalence of Covid-19 in Europe. 

The Valencian Health Ministry on Monday April 12th reported 83 new Covid cases and six deaths since its previous report.

Meanwhile Spain’s average 14-day infection rate has gone from 128 cases per 100,000 people on March 23rd to 199 cases per 100,000 people on April 12th. 

As feared, Spain has seen infections spike after Easter, with the government’s chief epidemiologist Fernando Simón confirming on Monday April 12th that Spain is now in the midst of the fourth wave of the coronavirus. 

There have been 78,862 new infections recorded since April 1st across Spain, pressure on ICU units has increased slightly.

“We’re in the fourth wave of the pandemic; we can’t stop what already happened,” Simón stressed.  

Five autonomies are in the extreme risk category (fortnightly infection rates over 250 cases): Navarra (425), Madrid (336), the Basque Country (320), Ceuta (498) and Melilla (537), according to the latest health ministry data.

At the other end of the scale are Galicia with 75.39 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, Murcia with 67.76 per 100,000, the Balearics with 57.36 and lowest of all Valencia with 36.34 cases per 100,000. 

Spanish newspapers such as ABC continue to report, just as they did before Easter, that La Comunidad Valencia’s infection rate is one of the lowest in the world. 

It’s worth noting that the British strain of the coronavirus has almost completely replaced the original virus in Alicante, Castellón and Valencia provinces, accounting for 94.8 percent of new cases detected in the last week.

On April 10th, the Valencian government passed a new decree which extends some of its strictest restrictions until the end of the state of alarm, which Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez recently suggested would go ahead on May 9th. 

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This will mean regional borders remain closed until then and the curfew from 10pm to 6am is kept in place.

Other measures such as a limit of six people meeting outdoors and a 6pm closing time for bars and restaurants will be kept in place until April 25th.   

“”For Valencians, the worst of the coronavirus pandemic has already passed,” regional president Ximo Puig proclaimed on April 4th, while insisting that the “objective continues to be to save lives.”

READ MORE:

How Spain’s Valencia region achieved one of Europe’s lowest infection rates

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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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