The sixth wave of the coronavirus pandemic continues to see exponential growth in Spain in terms of daily infections. In the latest report from the central Health Ministry, which was released on Wednesday evening, more than 100,000 daily infections were registered for the first time since the health crisis began. Specifically, there were 100,760 infections added to the total, as well as 78 Covid-related deaths.
The 14-day incidence rose a further 147 points to reach 1,508 cases per 100,000 inhabitants. In total, 6,133,057 coronavirus cases have been officially detected while 89,331 people in Spain have died after a positive test.
“We are in an epidemiological situation with a high level of circulation of the virus,” admitted yesterday Carolina Darias, the country’s health minister, after meeting on Wednesday with representatives of the regions’ health departments.
The cumulative incidence has been growing non-stop since November 3. On Monday of this week it saw its biggest rise in the pandemic so far, with a spike of nearly 300 points in the 14-day incidence from the previous Thursday (no data was released on Christmas Eve). Now, at 1,508 cases, the figure is nearly double what it was a week ago.
The regions with the highest incidence rates are Navarre (3,236), La Rioja (2,537) and the Basque Country (2,341). Given the flood of positive cases caused by the new, more contagious omicron variant, which is already dominant in Spain, Darias admitted on Wednesday that there is a “bottleneck” in terms of the communication of cases, and that the ministry is working with the regions in order to improve the accounting.
Despite the growth in infections, the Public Health Commission has opted to change the isolation protocols for positive cases, given that the infections being seen currently are in many cases asymptomatic or with mild symptoms. The incubation period with omicron also appears to be reduced. Last week, it was established that close contacts of positive cases who are fully vaccinated do not have to isolate. On Wednesday, the decision was taken to reduce the isolation of positive cases with mild symptoms or who are asymptomatic as well as unvaccinated close contacts from 10 to seven days.
In Spain’s hospitals, there are 10,411 Covid-19 patients receiving care right now, which is 559 more than the day before. The pressure on the country’s intensive care units (ICUs) is also rising, with 19.1% of beds occupied by coronavirus patients according to the latest report compared to 18.71% the day before – 37 new ICU patients in 24 hours.
“Despite the fact that the proportion of cases that need hospitalization in the ICU is significantly lower than last year around this time, when there was a lower incidence, it is true that the high incidences that we are registering right now are seeing this occupation rise bit by bit,” the health minister explained.
In terms of vaccination Spain administered 429,485 doses of a Covid-19 vaccine the previous day. Of this number, 40,985 shots were for the five- to 12-year-old group, 380,401 were booster shots and 8,099 were first or second doses for the over-12s. Currently, 79.8% of the population has been given at least one shot, while 81.7% have received the full protection offered by the vaccines.
The campaign moved on to the five- to 12-year-old group on December 15, and in the last two weeks 25.8% of children in this age range have been given their first shot. Meanwhile, 87.3% of the over-70s have been given a booster shot; for the 60-69 group the figure is 73.3%; for the 50-59 group it’s 26.4%; and 15% for the 40-49 group. Those who were originally vaccinated with the single-dose Janssen vaccine are also being given an additional shot of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, reaching 60.3% of this group so far.
Darias announced on Wednesday that the Zaragoza Military Defense Hospital has joined the vaccination campaign, and that there are 150 mobile vaccination teams from the Armed Forces that are being distributed around the country. Both of these measures were announced last week by the Spanish prime minister, Pedro Sánchez, as a means to speed up the vaccination of the population.