Incidence rate of Covid-19 in Spain shoots up to 436 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, a level last seen in February

The Health Ministry is planning on passing a decree that will make home-testing kits available to members of the public without the need for a prescription

Tourists drinking on the street in the Born neighborhood in Barcelona.
Tourists drinking on the street in the Born neighborhood in Barcelona.NACHO DOCE (Reuters)

The coronavirus is continuing to spread fast through Spain, and the 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants now stands at 436. The circulation of the virus during this fifth wave is ever higher across the country, and the infection rate now stands at the same level as it was in February, when the third wave – which reached a peak of 900 cases per 100,000 inhabitants – was falling.

The situation is particularly serious at the moment among younger people, where the incidence exceeds 1,000 cases per 100,000 among adolescents and the 20-29 group. Experts agree that the lack of vaccination coverage and the social dynamics of this collective, who have more interactions and relations, have favored an explosion in infections that has seen this new spike in infections in Spain. Catalonia is the worst region in terms of infection levels, and its incidence currently doubles the Spanish average.

The minister reported that nearly 44,000 cases had been detected while 13 new victims had been added to the overall death toll

“The virus is still there lurking for anyone who isn’t vaccinated,” said the Health Minister Carolina Darias on Tuesday, speaking in the Congress of Deputies. In the last 24 hours, the minister reported that nearly 44,000 cases had been detected while 13 new victims had been added to the overall death toll. Darias insisted that the vaccination campaign – more than 46% of Spain’s population has full coverage from a Covid-19 vaccine – is making the difference between this and other waves, and with the vast majority of the vulnerable population already protected, the rise in cases has not translated into a flood of hospitalizations and deaths.

The minister admitted, however, that “there is a need to increase the diagnostic capacity in order to more quickly identify suspected positive cases and even asymptomatic ones, as is occurring in the 12-29 population, in order to control the progression of the pandemic in the most efficient way possible.”

To do so, Darias announced that the Health Ministry will take a decree to the Cabinet that will regulate the sale of Covid-19 tests to the public and allow them to be sold without a prescription. Until now, a doctor’s authorization was needed for access to these tests. “The need for a prescription was a barrier,” the minister admitted.

Infection rates are rising constantly among Spain’s young people. In Catalonia and Castilla y León, for example, the cumulative incidence among adolescents is in excess of 2,400 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, and among the 20-29 group the rate is at 3,000. This unstoppable rise has prompted the reintroduction of some of the strictest coronavirus measures, such as curfews and limits on social meetings. The courts have backed these moves in the Valencia region, while in the Canary Islands the authorities are awaiting a decision from their High Court that would grant permission to restrict mobility at night.

Catalonia has already closed its nightlife sector and is waiting for the blessing of judges to limit social meetings to 10 people

Catalonia has already closed its nightlife sector and is waiting for the blessing of judges to limit social meetings to 10 people. The regional premier, Pere Aragonès, has stated that his government is looking to implement a surgical curfew, in the areas that are most affected by the coronavirus. The measure is on the table, he said, but a decision is yet to be made.

As most of these new cases are among young people, who experience only mild symptoms or are asymptomatic, the pressure is currently on the primary healthcare system, which has to diagnose cases among close contacts of those with the virus.

Across Spain, the new spike in infections is also being seen in hospital occupation. While the levels are still far from the previous waves of the pandemic, thanks to the vaccination campaign, there are currently 4,183 people hospitalized with Covid – this means an occupation rate of 3.5%, but is also an increase of 47% on the week before.

In the country’s intensive care units (ICUs), there are 749 people with Covid-19 in a critical condition. That’s 21% more than a week ago, although the average occupation among all ICU beds is 6.7%. In Catalonia, however, coronavirus patients already account for 21% of ICU beds and some hospitals have already started to suspend family visits and to cancel programmed surgeries given the increase in admissions caused by the high circulation of the virus.

English version by Simon Hunter.

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