coronavirus

Threat of fourth wave looms closer as Spain’s coronavirus incidence rate continues to rise

The 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants now stands at 149, and exceeds the threshold for extreme risk in Madrid and Navarre

Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), during a press conference on Monday.
Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), during a press conference on Monday.EUROPA PRESS/J. Hellín. POOL / Europa Press

What began as a slow and sustained rise in the incidence rate of coronavirus cases in Spain is looking increasingly more like an upward spike. Indeed, the figures are beginning to paint with growing clarity the beginning of a fourth wave. According to the latest Health Ministry report on the health crisis, released Monday evening, the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants now stands at 149. In the regions of Madrid and Navarre, this data point has risen to 255 and 266, respectively, passing the 250-threshold considered by the Health Ministry to indicate a situation of extreme risk.

Fernando Simón, the director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), said this upward trend could be contained as a “small wave.” Speaking at a press conference on Monday to present the latest report, he explained: “We are in a situation of inflection. We could maintain the trend or reverse it. It’s in everyone’s hands. If we manage to maintain this trough a few weeks more, with the level of vaccinations being carried out these weeks, we could have an epidemiological wave, if indeed we have one, that is much smaller than the previous ones. And each week that passes, we vaccinate more people; it’s time we gain.”

If all of us are capable of maintaining discipline, the control measures, perhaps it doesn’t make sense to speak of a fourth wave
Fernando Simón, director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts

As the rollout of Covid-19 vaccines to the collectives most vulnerable to the disease continues, the lethality rate is likely to fall, even if the number of cases rises. Simón, however, insisted that it is too soon to speak of a fourth wave, given that the upward trend of the incidence rate has not yet been consolidated and that the epidemiological situation varies greatly from region to region.

Although in 12 of Spain’s 19 territories (17 regions and the two North African exclave cities of Melilla and Ceuta), the incidence rate is on the rise, it is doing so from very different starting points. While the 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants in Madrid and Navarre is more than 250, it is less than 100 in the Balearic Islands and Extremadura, even if it is rising slightly. In the Valencia region and Murcia, the data point is also below 100 and it is on a downward trend.

For the first time, the general rise in the number of coronavirus cases, which began two weeks ago, is beginning to be reflected in hospital occupancy rates, which rose slightly on Monday, with respect to Friday. Covid-19 patients now occupy 6.5% of ward hospital beds and 18.7% of intensive care units (ICUs).

A health worker administers the Covid-19 vaccine to a patient in Catalonia.
A health worker administers the Covid-19 vaccine to a patient in Catalonia.CONSELLERIA DE SALUD / Europa Press

According to Simón, the next few days will be key to confirming whether or not the long weekend for father’s day or San José, which was celebrated on March 19 in several regions, led to a significant rise in the incidence rate, as has happened during other public holidays. “If all of us are capable of maintaining discipline, the control measures, perhaps it doesn’t make sense to speak of a fourth wave,” said Simón.

When asked about the images of tourists in Madrid breaking the coronavirus health measures, Simón said what was important was not the fact that foreign visitors are allowed to visit Spain, but rather that they follow the rules once they are in the country. “What I have seen in the last few days is worrying. But we can’t say we have to be responsible and then not implement the measures that are proposed,” said Simón.

English version by Melissa Kitson.


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