Six weeks after resisting the first assault of the novel coronavirus epidemic, Spain finds itself in a “critical” situation, according to experts, with the worst contagion figures in Western Europe.
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Spain communicated on Monday an average of 4,923 new cases daily in the past seven days, more than France, the United Kingdom, Germany and Italy combined, according to an AFP calculation from official sources.
With 323,000 cases, the country is the first in Western Europe, the 11th in the world, and is well ahead of its neighbors with 108 cases per 100,000 inhabitants against 28 in France, 18 in the United Kingdom, 13 in Germany and eight in Italy.
So much so that more and more European countries impose a quarantine on travelers returning from Spain.
This is a “critical situation, we are just at the point where things can get better or worse (…) it involves doing all we can and trying to curb the outbreaks before they get worse. “Salvador Macip, professor of health sciences at the Open University of Barcelona and author of the book, told AFP. The great modern epidemics.
Spain has seen more than 500 outbreaks of contagion since the first wave and is also experiencing community transmission, that is to say, the origin of which cannot be traced.
This transmission “is not perfectly controlled but is gradually attenuating”, assured Monday the chief epidemiologist of the Ministry of Health, Fernando Simon.
Spain ended on June 21 one of the strictest lockdowns in the world, where for weeks the population was under house arrest. On that date, the authorities were registering 238 new cases per day and an average of eight cases per 100,000 inhabitants, far from the statistical rebound observed since mid-July: what happened?
“There was a lot of haste to deconfin, surely thinking of tourism”, pillar of the Spanish economy, and considering “that in summer, with the heat, there would be less chance of having homes, which would only come in the fall, ”explains Joan Cayla, president of the Barcelona Tuberculosis Research Unit, now dedicated to the study of COVID-19.
But “the outbreaks appeared this summer, coinciding with the holidays of part of the health personnel,” adds Cayla, who emphasizes that the epidemiological rebound began two weeks after deconfinement, the usual time for contagions to appear in the statistics .
For Salvador Macip, other factors are added to this explosive cocktail: seasonal agricultural workers who work in precarious conditions and who have been at the origin of several outbreaks, and the excessive “relaxation” of the population in a Mediterranean culture. prone to physical contact and to gatherings with family and friends, perhaps “easier to avoid” in northern Europe.
Three “weapons” are necessary against the resurgence of contagions: educating the populations for the difficult months, increasing the number of tests and hiring staff to track down the contacts of infected people, the researcher believes, but there have been “failures” in all of them. these areas.
Faced with these outbreaks of contagion, the regions, competent in matters of health, have taken drastic measures, going as far as partial confinements in the most affected areas in the North and North-East such as Catalonia, Aragon or the Country. Basque.
The mask has become mandatory in all public places except in the Canary Islands, and many nightclubs, considered transmission accelerators, have been closed.
Several regions have also broadcast shock videos to make young people aware of the deadly risks of contagion.
The government defends its work, recalling that the cases increase as the tests multiply (nearly 7.5 million in total, 407,000 last week), that more than half of the new cases are asymptomatic, that hospitals are far from being saturated and that “the lethality has dropped dramatically”, as Dr Simon pointed out on Monday.
In fact, Spain recorded 950 deaths per day during the peak of the first wave, against 253 in total since the end of containment on June 21, bringing the toll to 28,576.