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COVID-19

600 and counting: Spain’s Covid-19 infection rate grows sixfold in a month

Spain's fortnightly infection rate has reached 600 cases per 100,000 people and hospitalisations have increased by 65 percent in a week, the country’s Health Ministry reported on Monday. 

600 and counting: Spain's Covid-19 infection rate grows sixfold in a month
Photo: Josep LAGO / AFP

As expected, the incidence of the coronavirus continued to grow over the past weekend in Spain, an infection rate which has been snowballing since the country’s fifth Covid wave began on July 22nd

Back then, Spain’s national fortnightly infection rate was 92 cases per 100,000 people, but over the past month this figure has grown more than sixfold to the current 601 cases per 100,000 on July 20th. 

On Monday evening, Spain’s Health Ministry reported 61,628 Covid-19 cases recorded from Friday to Sunday.

This took the incidence of the virus over the past 14 days up to 601 cases per 100,000 people, figures not seen since Spain’s third wave in late January when the infection rate peaked at 894 cases per 100,000 people.

The regions that have recorded the most cases over the three-day period are Catalonia, with 17,579 new infections, Andalusia with 8,038 cases and the Valencian region with 5,863.

The cumulative incidence continues to rise among Spain’s unvaccinated younger people, standing at 1,794 cases per 100,000 20 to 29 year olds, 1,488 cases for every 100,000 12 to 19 year olds and 799 infections per 100,000 in the 30 to 39 age group. 

Catalonia is by far the region with the highest infection rate with 1,233 cases per 100K inhabitants over the past 14 days, followed by Navarra (899) and Castilla y León (894) in second and third place. 

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On the other side of the spectrum is Castilla-La Mancha, which still has a very high infection rate (216) even though it’s the lowest in Spain together with Murcia and the Canaries.

The following map by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control is from July 15th and therefore doesn’t include the latest infection rates from across the continent, but it reflects how Spain’s infection rates is among the highest in the EU together with Cyprus, Portugal and the Netherlands.

Hospitalisations are also on the up in Spain: with 1,069 new admissions in the last 24 hours taking the total of people currently in hospital with Covid-19 up to 6,482, a 65 percent increase compared to last Monday. 

“We have four hospital floors full of Covid patients, it reminds us of the first wave,” Juan Pablo Horcajada, General Covid coordinator at Barcelona’s Hospital del Mar, told Spanish broadcaster RTVE.

“The numbers admitted to the ward are much higher in proportion to those who need to be in intensive care units (ICU),” he added, in reference to the fact that milder cases are more common among young people. 

Twenty three Covid deaths have also been reported in Spain since last Friday, a figure which has also increased compared to data from the previous week but is far lower than when the virus struck older and more vulnerable unvaccinated population groups in 2020. 

A total of 4.16 million people in Spain have now reportedly been infected with Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. 

As of July 20th, 81,119 people have lost their lives to the coronavirus in Spain.

According to Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias, Spain is set to reach the milestone of fully vaccinating 50 percent of its population this week.

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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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