Spain ready to implement tougher measures as ‘Christmas clock’ is ticking

The Spanish Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, in the Parliament in Madrid, to report about the COVID-19 pandemic, December, 16 2020. EFE/ J.J. Guillén [EFE/ J.J. Guillén]

With the virus not going away ahead of the Christmas season, the Spanish government is ready to implement tougher measures, Spain’s socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez told parliament on Wednesday, EFE reports.

The epidemiologic situation in Spain was kept relatively under control for a few weeks, but the latest reports are no bearers of good news: the incidence rate of the COVID-19 pandemic has risen for the fourth day in a row.

There is a “worrying increase in infections,” Sánchez said in a speech before parliament (Congreso de los Diputados), where he informed MPs about the current health situation.

“We cannot relax. We cannot lower our guard… We have fought hard this year, united, and we are facing the last effort”, Sánchez stressed.

If the current situation does not improve, the Spanish government is ready to propose to regions and local governments tougher contingency plans to again take control of the pandemic, he said.

Even though this is not being admitted in public, due to the high economic cost for the country of a tougher lockdown, the government is keeping an eye on German Chancellor Angela Merkel and the measures implemented by Berlin to stop the new wave of contagions.

Spain PM says virus battle plan 'is working'

Spain’s strategy to curb a rise in coronavirus infections “is working”, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Sunday (22 November) as he unveiled details of plans to vaccinate much of the population next year.

Hopes fade of a normal Christmas

Up until last Friday (11 December), the incidence rate had been on a downward trend for five consecutive weeks. But now, people’s hopes for a safe and “normal” Christmas – even with many restrictions to mobility between regions – seem to be vanishing in the air like ‘early snowflakes’.

In a report published on Tuesday (15 December), Spain’s health ministry informed that the 14-day cumulative number of coronavirus cases per 100,000 inhabitants in the country has already reached 198.77, up from Monday’s 193.6 figure.

According to the health ministry’s updated data, 10,328 new coronavirus cases were detected on Tuesday, adding 388 COVID-19-related deaths to the official toll.

Epidemiologists quoted by Spanish media said it was too soon to clearly identify the causes of the latest upward trend after two weeks of relatively stable figures.

Some experts said the reason could be found in new contagions during two recent long holidays in the country, from 5 to 8 December, taking into account that contagions are not typically reflected in the figures until 10 days after.

According to a “seroprevalence” survey released on Tuesday (15 December), nearly 10% of the Spanish population may have contracted the COVID-19, half of them during the second wave of the pandemic, last summer.

The research by the Carlos III Health Institute in Madrid revealed that 9.9% of Spain’s 47 million residents have developed antibodies after being exposed to the virus.

Raquel Yotti, head of the Carlos III Institute, stressed that in the first wave of the study, last May, 5% of the Spanish population had developed COVID-19 antibodies.

Vaccination calendar

Spain will be, together with Germany, one of the two first EU countries to start vaccinating as early as January. The government has approved a clear vaccination roadmap with the first vaccine likely being the one from Pfizer-BioNTech.

Spain’s health authorities have identified 18 different target groups for vaccination, with a calendar starting in January and ending by July/August.

Top priority groups in Spain are: 1) elderly living in retirement homes and health personnel working there, 2) citizens older than 65, 3) people with chronic diseases (in particular respiratory problems), 4) disabled people, 5) police forces, firemen, bus/train drivers, 6) people who cannot commit to teleworking and must go to their offices every day, 7) the rest of the population. It will not be obligatory to take the vaccine.

[Edited by Daniel Eck and Frédéric Simon]

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