COVID-19: Spain worried about explosion of contagions

Madrid | COVID-19 cases have reached record levels after the holiday season in Spain, where several regions are calling for new strict containment. A solution for the moment still excluded by the central government.

As competent as other regions when it comes to health, Madrid is one of the last to announce new restrictions on Friday.

• Read also: All developments in the COVID-19 pandemic

In particular, it demands that its residents not hold meetings inside their homes, brought forward an hour, to 11:00 p.m., the curfew already in place and ordered bars and restaurants to close at 10:00 p.m. It has also banned any entry into or exit from twenty towns in the region, except to go to work in particular.

In one month, the incidence of the epidemic has more than doubled in Spain, from 194 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in two weeks to 523 on Thursday, according to the latest data released by the Ministry of Health. In the region of Extremadura (southwest), the most affected, this rate exceeds 1,100.

And last week, the country surpassed the symbolic mark of two million confirmed cases. However, the toll was underestimated when a seroprevalence study presented in mid-December by the government revealed that 10% of Spaniards, or about 4.7 million people, had contracted the virus.

The country recorded 201 deaths in 24 hours on Thursday, bringing the official total to more than 53,000.

After a harsh and early second wave that started in July, just after the end of confinement, the situation had stabilized by the end of the fall.

But “there has been a significant change in trend” around Epiphany on January 6, a holiday during which most Spanish children receive their gifts, the chief epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health said Thursday, Fernando Simon, at a press conference.

The intensive care units, with an average occupancy rate of 28%, “are overdue,” he added.

– New containment excluded -The authorities attribute this increase to family reunions at the end of the year, which had however been strictly supervised, rather to a possible impact of the new more contagious variant of the virus which appeared in the United Kingdom, including 88 cases have been identified so far in Spain.

“The British strain had a very small effect, according to our observations,” said Simon, although 200 suspected cases are still being analyzed.

In an attempt to curb the explosion of new cases, five regions have called on the central government to allow them to impose strict lockdowns of the population at homes in the cities or neighborhoods most affected.

But the executive of socialist Pedro Sanchez refuses for the moment to take this drastic measure, population and businesses still remaining traumatized by the spring containment, one of the strictest in the world. Unlike their European neighbors, the Spaniards could not even go out for an hour to get fresh air or to play sports.

The move “does not seem necessary at this time,” Simon said, a strategy that contrasts with many other countries like Britain, which has reconfigured its population.

For the authorities, the various restrictions implemented as part of the state of health emergency in force until May and that the regions are tightening up (curfews, closure of certain towns or areas, reduction in capacity and closure of bars and restaurants, ban on entry unless there is a valid reason in a region, etc.) are sufficient.

Faced with this refusal, Castile and León (center), one of the regions calling for such a measure, on Friday called on its inhabitants to stay at home “as much as possible” and advanced its curfew to 8:00 p.m. The Basque Country (north) wants to set it at 6:00 p.m. as in France.

Aragon (north) announced Friday the closure of its three main cities, including Zaragoza.

Finally, Catalonia, which is due to hold regional elections on February 14, should decide within the day to postpone them due to the resurgence of the virus.

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