It appears that for now, Spain is staving off a new wave of the coronavirus, with many of its neighbours already in the midst of it.
Spain’s fortnightly infection rate has slowly climbed from “low” risk to “medium” risk over the past ten days – currently standing at 72 Covid cases per 100,000 people – although pressure on hospital and ICU wards remains low.
The incidence of the virus is currently highest in Navarre (159 cases per 100,000 people), the Basque Country (145 per 100,000), Aragón (122 per 100,000), the Balearic Islands (100 per 100,000) and Catalonia (94 per 100,000).
Regional authorities in some of these communities – as well as other regions fearing they will be next to see infections rise – are now rethinking their Covid strategies with a view to Christmas.
They’re contemplating a tool which is widely required across the EU but which in Spain is only really used for overseas travel – the Covid health pass.
Their thinking is that this would allow them to avoid restrictions that affect the population as a whole and target unvaccinated people primarily by requiring a Covid health pass to gain access to bars, restaurants and other establishments.
The regional governments of Galicia, the Canary Islands, Murcia, Castilla y León, Aragón and Navarre are now all contemplating whether to push forward with this legislation for hospitality venues, whilst Andalusia wants it for concerts and sport stadiums.
The mayor of the Basque city of Vitoria Gorka Urtaran is also in favour of distinguishing between vaccinated and unvaccinated when it comes to Covid-19 restrictions, arguing that “everyone is free to choose whether to get vaccinated or not” but “unvaccinated people will have to live a different kind of life”.
Crucially however, it needs to be approved by regional courts, which is the reason why the Covid health pass for daily affairs never really took off in Spain in the first place.
Whereas other governments across Europe embraced this controversial measure as a means of stemming infections, regional authorities in the Canary Islands, Andalusia, Cantabria and Galicia all saw how the introduction of the health pass was rejected by local judges, some of them labelling it as “unnecessary” and “not ideal”.
As things stand, the Digital Covid Certificate – issued by the regions to certify vaccination, testing or recovery – is only required in nightlife venues and some large events in Catalonia, the Balearics and Galicia.
But with practically 80 percent of Spain’s total population fully vaccinated and social interactions set to increase over Christmas, regional high courts may be inclined to reconsider whether they should be rejecting the widely used Covid health pass as a precaution, especially for unvaccinated people.
Currently, 60 to 70 percent of hospitalised Covid patients in Spain are not vaccinated, regional health data shows, and in ICU wards the figure rises to 100 percent in the case of Murcia or 90 percent in the Valencia region.