After third wave subsides, Spain’s coronavirus rate begins to creep up once more

With the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants now at 129.55, authorities are warning the public not to let their guard down – especially during Easter week

A patient in the intensive care unit of Llobregat hospital in Barcelona.
A patient in the intensive care unit of Llobregat hospital in Barcelona.Massimiliano Minocri

The curve of coronavirus infections in Spain has just completed a week of gradual rises. After two months of a downward trend, as the third wave of the pandemic subsided, the direction changed last Wednesday and new cases started to rise once more. On January 27, the 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants peaked at 900. In Tuesday’s report from the Health Ministry, the incidence came in at 129.55. In the last week, the incidence has risen by just under two points, but the trend is on the rise in 12 of Spain’s 17 regions.

The ministry also reported 5,516 new cases and 201 Covid-19 deaths yesterday, and called for people to be alert ahead of Easter week. “Maximum precautions,” implored Health Minister Carolina Darias on Monday. The next days will be key to determining whether the upward trend is consolidated or whether this is just a small spike.

If we start to have crowds on the streets in Easter week, we will have a new spike
Daniel López-Acuña, former director of emergencies at the World Health Organization

According to the latest data, only Murcia, Valencia, Galicia, Andalusia and the Balearics are not seeing the incidence rise, although the latter three are seeing minor rises and falls. The North African cities of Melilla and Ceuta have the highest incidence rates in Spain: 514 in the former, and 256 in the latter.

“We are continuing to see a change in trend and we could end up with a rise in the incidence,” said the subdirector of the Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), María José Sierra, speaking on Tuesday. “We have 11 regions where the seven-day cumulative incidence is 50% above what we have for 14 days. And when this happens this indicates that the trend is rising, that infections are increasing and it is likely that in the coming days, if it is not corrected, we will have clearer rises in the incidence.”

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With all eyes on Easter week, and the double threat of the more-infections strain first identified in England, as well as an increased spread in a lot of Europe, the authorities and health experts are calling on people not to let their guard down – in particular during the Easter holidays. The Health Ministry has agreed with the regions to keep curfews in place and implement a perimetral lockdown of the regions in order to limit mobility and journeys, but epidemiologists are calling for greater restrictions within these areas.

“If we start to have crowds on the streets in Easter week, we will have a new spike,” insisted Daniel López-Acuña this week, a former director of emergencies at the World Health Organization. The Supreme Court has rejected a lawsuit filed by the far-right Vox party against the perimetral lockdown of the Madrid region during Easter week.

The Health Ministry reported 5,516 new cases and added 201 Covid-19 deaths to the official toll on Tuesday

The country’s hospitals, meanwhile, are still under pressure and a new spike of cases in these circumstances, with intensive care units (ICUs) at around 20% occupation by Covid-19 patients, would ramp up this tension further. There are more than 8,000 people hospitalized with Covid-19 right now, accounting for 6.34% of all normal hospital beds. Sierra warned on Monday that the fall in admissions has now stabilized. Aragón, the Canary Islands, Catalonia, Navarre and Melilla, for example, have more people hospitalized than they did the day before. In the ICUs, the situation continues to improve slightly, although there are still 1,800 Covid patients in a critical condition.

Since the start of the pandemic, the number of official victims stands at 73,744, although this total could be much higher given that many people died with Covid-19 during the first wave without being tested.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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