MADRID – According to the Ministry of Health’s covid traffic light, 6 of the 17 autonomous regions are now in the “high” risk phase. This means that between 300 and 500 people per 100,000 inhabitants have tested positive in the last 14 days.
The high-risk phase, alert phase 3, applies to Catalonia, Aragon, the Basque Country, La Rioja, Navarra and Castile, and León. In total, 14.5 million inhabitants live in these regions. In this sixth corona wave in Spain, infection rates are very divided geographically; for example, in Navarra and the Basque Country, the number of infections is three times higher than the national average. And compared to Andalucia, Castile-La Mancha, and Extremadura, these areas are almost seven times higher.
Virus spreads according to fixed pattern
According to epidemiologist Javier del Águila, the geographical spread of the coronavirus has a repetitive pattern. The infection curve rises in each wave first in the regions of northeastern Spain, followed by the Madrid region. Then, the other regions also connect from this centre. Whereas, in Andalucia and Galicia, the curve is always the last to rise and they remain the regions least affected by the coronavirus. The two archipelagos each follow their own pattern.
Most positive tests in Gipuzkoa
Currently, in Spain, 12 provinces are in the high-risk phase and six are even in the extremely high-risk phase. These are Lleida, Gerona, Huesca, Teruel, La Rioja, León and Gipuzkoa. In the latter province, the infection incidence is the highest in all of Spain with 1,224 people testing positive per 100,000 inhabitants.
No crisis in hospitals expected
The rising infection rates in Spain are also reflected in the number of new hospital admissions. Despite the fact that hospitals are now filling up a lot more slowly than in previous waves, it is inevitable that the rise in the infection curve will lead to an increase in the number of seriously ill covid patients. The average risk level for all IC departments in Spain is currently ‘moderate’, but the pressure is increasing in a number of regions. In Aragon, Catalonia, Castile and León, La Rioja and Navarra, the alertness level is ‘high’. This means that 15% of the hospital occupancy here consists of covid patients. The regions of Valencia and Madrid are also approaching the limit to alertness level ‘high’.
However, this is not yet comparable with what happened in previous waves in Spanish hospitals. By way of comparison: last Friday a total of 5,569 covid patients were admitted, in the fourth and fifth waves, there were more than 10,000, in the third wave 31,000 and in the second wave more than 20,000.
According to experts consulted by El País, that level will no longer occur in hospitals. They are concerned, however, about the fact that the number of infections is not going down. According to the calculation models, the increase in Spain will certainly continue in the coming weeks. There is great uncertainty about what will happen after Christmas. Last year, after Christmas, the most deadly corona wave occurred in Spain, which reached its peak at the end of January this year. To prevent that scenario this year, the corona crisis centre has advised reducing the number of visitors during the holidays. For example, the regional council of Catalonia asked last Friday to cancel Christmas dinners and lunches as much as possible. The catering sector has announced that it is already experiencing the consequences of this throughout Spain.