Spain braces for post-Easter pandemic surge

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OVIEDO, Spain

Cases continue to increase in Spain, and the country’s chief epidemiologist said on Monday that the next few days could be critical in determining the size of the impending fourth wave.

Easter break was marked by viral videos of parties and large crowds gathering in defiance of restrictions. Overall, 99 people were arrested and 8,590 fined for breaking pandemic-related rules across the country, police said.

Spain had enforced travel restrictions for the holidays, but indoor bars and restaurants remained open.

The infection rate has shot up more than 10 points since before the holidays, with nearly 27,000 new infections since March 31. Yet, the true impact remains to be seen as testing dropped over the vacation period.

Hospitalizations are also rising slowly, with one in five of Spain’s intensive care units now occupied by COVID-19 patients.

The region of Castile and Leon announced closing indoor dining in hard-hit areas, while Madrid also put fresh restrictions on several neighborhoods.

Besides restrictions, Spain plans to battle the pandemic by ramping up vaccinations significantly this month. The country received its biggest-ever shipment of Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines – 1.2 million doses – earlier in the day.

Heath Minister Carolina Darias reaffirmed that with more vaccines coming in, the country still has its goal of vaccinating 70% of adults this summer “within its reach.”

Regional governments are turning to larger centers to carry out vaccinations. Madrid, for example, is set to open a massive concert hall at the end of the week to increase the speed.

So far, Spain has administered 8.7 million doses to its population of 40 million. More than 44% of the most vulnerable age group – those older than 80 – have been fully immunized with both jabs, while nearly 80% have received at least one dose.

Yet, the fourth wave could be particularly devastating to people between the ages of 70 and 79, as just 5% have received a single jab and less than 3% are fully immunized.

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