Spain’s Covid-19 infection rate drops to its lowest in ten months

The 14-day incidence curve for Covid-19 infections in Spain fell below 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for the first time since last August.

Spain's Covid-19 infection rate drops to its lowest in ten months
People with masks in Retiro Park, Madrid. Photo: Gabriel BOUYS / AFP

The incidence rate across the whole of Spain over the last two weeks has dropped by just over two points, to 98.78 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. This is the lowest level of contagion since August 12th, 2020, although the daily decline has slowed.

This signifies that infections have been continuously declining over the past few months.  

The rate of registered cases has fallen by more than one point in the Canary Islands, Asturias and Extremadura; and less than half a point in the Balearic Islands, the Valencian Community and Murcia. The steepest decreases occurred in Melilla (-10 points), in the Basque Country (-8) and in La Rioja (-6).

Andalusia and La Rioja are the only two regions that continue to have a Covid-19 incidence rate of above 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which indicates a high-risk level. Navarra and the Basque Country also both have 14-day incidence rates above 100 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. 

On the other side, Murcia, Galicia, the Balearic Islands, the Valencian Community and Ceuta are all at a low-risk level and have the lowest incident rates. 

The situation in hospitals is also gradually improving. The number of patients in intensive care units for COVID-19 continues to decline and is already below 10 percent nationwide.

Madrid is the region which has the highest number of ICU beds taken up by Covid-19 patients.

On Wednesday, June 16th, the Health Ministry reported that the ICU occupancy rate in Cantabria had also fallen to the same level as seen in the Valencian Community, Extremadura, Galicia and Murcia, which all have an ICU occupancy of less than five percent and are out of the risk classification.

More than 21 million people in Spain have now received at least one dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, which equates to 45 percent of the population, while 13 million have been fully vaccinated. 

READ ALSO: Spain’s Covid vaccine calendar: When will I get the jab?

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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.