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COVID-19 STATS

Spain to stop counting Covid infections except for serious cases

Spain’s Health Ministry on Thursday announced it will stop keeping count of all Covid-19 infections in the country, with the exception of serious cases and those affecting vulnerable people.

Spain to stop counting Covid infections except for serious cases
Spanish health authorities had previously announced that they wanted to start monitoring the pandemic in a similar way to seasonal flu. (Photo by Pau BARRENA / AFP)

It’s a decision that’s been in the pipeline for some time and one which will effectively mean that the national infection rate, one of the key epidemiological indicators up to now, will no longer be used to evaluate the state of the pandemic in Spain. 

On Thursday March 10th, Spain’s Interterritorial National Health Council (CISNS) announced that it will soon begin a transition towards not counting each and every new Covid-19 infection there is, and focus instead on monitoring high-risk groups and serious coronavirus cases. 

With such high vaccination rates in the country and a dominant Omicron variant that’s proven less lethal than previous strains, the national and regional health representatives that make up CISNS have seen little sense in continuing with the exhaustive surveillance system that’s been in place for the past two years.

Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias has not yet specified when the change in surveillance will come into effect, but details are expected soon.

According to Darias, the transitional system will still be “capable of detecting increases in Covid incidence among the general population” and will allow for “the early detection of new variants and measures of vaccine effectiveness”.

The Health Minister already confirmed last week that instead of daily infection and vaccination reports as has been the case until now, there will only be two a week going forward.

However, given the latest announcement, such reports will not include mild or asymptomatic cases that citizens report to their local health centres. 

Back in mid-January, Spanish health authorities announced that they wanted to start monitoring the pandemic in a similar way to seasonal flu and serve as an example to the rest of the world of what reclassifying Covid would mean.

This process is being described as the gripalización (influenza-tion) of the pandemic, whereas others are calling for Spain’s general health system to be covidizado (‘covisized’), two newly coined terms which describe different ways to adapt to a post-pandemic world.

In the end, other European countries have been faster to remove all Covid restrictions, but Spain is now taking small steps towards easing its outdated coronavirus rulebook. 

There had been hopes that the Interterritorial National Health Council meeting held in Zaragoza on Thursday would also lead to a decision on the end of rule for face masks in indoor settings, but no announcement has yet been made on this. 

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FACE MASKS

Spain calls for return of face masks indoors as Covid cases rise

Spain’s Health Ministry has recommended Spaniards put their masks back on in indoor public settings, calling for "caution" as the seventh coronavirus wave sees cases and hospitalisations rise across the country.

Spain calls for return of face masks indoors as Covid cases rise

Spanish Health Minister Carolina Darias on Friday recommended people wear face masks again in indoor public settings as Covid cases and hospitalisations in late June and early July returned to levels not seen since February 2022.

Darias called for “caution” and “responsible mask usage” at a time of increased travel in Spain and with many doctors and nurses booking off time for their summer holidays.

Similar sentiments about the return of face masks indoors have already been shared by the health authorities in some of Spain’s other regions, including Catalonia and Madrid. 

Catalan Health Minister Josep Maria Argimon recommended that those recovering from Covid should continue to wear a mask due to the increase in Covid patients admitted to the ICU in the region, which has increased from 26 to 46 in the space of three weeks.  

Madrid Vice President Enrique Ossorio also suggested that masks should be reintroduced in certain situations, due to the rise of cases seen in the region. Masks should be worn by “vulnerable people, those who are immunosuppressed and those who are pregnant,” he argued.

Ossorio also recommended that the use of face masks be extended to enclosed public spaces and large events.

After two years of compulsory usage in indoor public settings, Spanish authorities lifted the indoor face mask rule on April 20th, having already removed the requirement for outdoors on February 10th

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Spain’s Health Minister also urged that those aged 80 and over should receive a fourth Covid vaccine dose, but has not specified when this will happen, even though this was already been approved in early June.   

READ ALSO: Spain to offer fourth Covid-19 vaccine dose to ‘entire population’

“The Health Ministry is going to continue working hand in hand with the advice of experts who’ve introduced an exemplary vaccination strategy,” Darias explained.

On Friday July 1st, 10,249 people were in hospital with Covid-19 in Spain, a figure not seen since February 17th 2022. As for ICU admissions, there were 449 Covid patients in total.

Madrid currently has a fortnightly infection rate of 1,500 cases per 100,00 inhabitants for people aged 60 and over, as Spain stopped counting each and every Covid-19 cases last March and focused only on serious infections and those affecting the elderly. 

That’s why experts are referring to this seventh coronavirus wave as the “silent” one, with no way of truly knowing how many people are getting infected or reinfected in Spain. 

Darias said that the Covid situation is being monitored carefully and that rise in cases is mainly down to the new omicron sub-variants BA4 and BA5, which are more transmissible but are milder than previous variants.

The Minister added that the Spanish government has provided its regions with medicines that are “very important” in the treatment of Covid, such as the antiviral Paxlovid, of which 344,000 sets of pills have been purchased, which help prevent an infected person from developing a serious illness, as well as Evusheld to protect people who do not generate their own antibodies. 

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