CORONAVIRUS

Spain exits the ‘extreme risk’ coronavirus scenario, according to latest Health Ministry report

Infections are down, but experts warn that the improving figures could change at any time, particularly ahead of two upcoming holidays

A woman undergoes a coronavirus test in Burgos.
A woman undergoes a coronavirus test in Burgos.Santi Otero / EFE

Spain has emerged from the coronavirus “extreme risk” scenario as measured by the Health Ministry. On Thursday, the 14-day cumulative incidence was 240 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, which puts the country in the “high risk” category as determined by a traffic light system approved on October 22.

This incidence rate is less than half of what it was a month ago, when it reached 521 cases per 100,000 on November 2. The highest figure was recorded on November 9, with 529 cases per 100,000.

During these holidays we could ruin the efforts of nearly two months
Fernando Simón, director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES)

Broken down by territories, the latest available data show that there are still five regions at extreme risk due to high incidence rates: Aragón, Asturias, Cantabria, the Basque Country and La Rioja. Another 10 are at high risk: Andalusia, the Balearic Islands, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, Catalonia, the Valencia region, Extremadura, Madrid, Murcia and Navarre. Two more, Galicia and the Canary Islands, are at low risk.

In terms of pressure on the healthcare system, 10 regions are at the extreme risk level due to high occupancy of intensive care beds by Covid-19 patients: Aragón, Asturias, Cantabria, Castilla-La Mancha, Castilla y León, Catalonia, the Valencia region, Madrid, the Basque Country and La Rioja.

Spain entered the second wave of the coronavirus earlier than other European countries, and is now posting lower incidence rates than many of its neighbors, including the United Kingdom, Belgium, Italy, Sweden and Portugal. The generalized drop in cases is starting to result in decreased hospitalizations.

According to the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which also uses a traffic light system, the threshold for red zones is set at 150 notified cases per 100,000 people, which leaves Spain still within this category.

Unstable situation

Spain’s overall downward trend could change any day. On Thursday, health authorities reported 10,127 new cases and 254 deaths. Spain is still one of the European countries with the most excess deaths since July, and continues to notify twice as many Covid-19 deaths per capita as Germany.

The situation has been described as “unstable” by the epidemiologist Antoni Trilla. Experts fear that the holidays coming up on December 6 and 8 (observed only on Tuesday in some regions, and on Monday and Tuesday in others) will result in greater social contact and an uptick in infections, as was the case during the long weekend in October. The Madrid region is sealing its borders between December 4 and 13 to prevent widespread travel.

“During these holidays we could ruin the efforts of nearly two months,” warned Fernando Simón, director of the Health Ministry’s Coordination Center for Health Alerts (CCAES), at a news conference on Thursday. Simón seemed very skeptical about Spain’s chances of reaching Christmas with an incidence rate of just 25 cases per 100,000, which is the government’s goal.

On Wednesday, central and regional officials approved a set of guidelines for the Christmas holidays that includes special restrictions on mobility and social gatherings between December 23 and January 6 to prevent a new surge in infections.

With reporting by Daniele Grasso and Jessica Mouzo.

English version by Susana Urra.

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