Spain Struggles to Contain Rising COVID Infections

Spain has experienced a sharp rise in coronavirus cases in the past month which have prompted authorities to impose fresh restrictions in many parts of the country.The 14-day coronavirus contagion rate was 469.50 per 100,000 of population, according to Spanish health ministry data released on Wednesday, making Spain’s one of the highest levels in Europe.Barcelona and the surrounding region of Catalonia plan to impose a curfew to curb the delta variant of the coronavirus, which is running rampant among younger, unvaccinated Spaniards.The Catalan regional authorities on Thursday were waiting for a judge to approve a nightly curfew after the two-week contagion level surpassed 1,000 cases per 100,000 people.Hospital staff treat a patient suffering from COVID-19 at Hospital del Mar, where an additional ward has been opened to deal with an increase in coronavirus patients in Barcelona, Spain, July 15, 2021.Possible paybackFor the Spanish state it also means a potential financial headache because 1.1 million fines imposed for breaking the state of emergency can now be appealed in court, meaning the government could be forced to refund the fines it imposed on some people. After the court ruling on Wednesday, Spain’s Justice Minister Pilar Llop told a press conference that said the original state of emergency “saved 450,000 lives.””The duty of the government was to take immediate, urgent measures when faced with the rapid propagation of the virus,” she added.Pablo Simón, a political analyst at the Carlos III University in Madrid, said the ruling had important implications for how Spain can control the pandemic. “All fines imposed can now be appealed which will cause financial implications for the government,” he told VOA.”According to the constitution, the state of exception can only be applied for 30 days. It was designed for public disturbances, not for pandemics.””Spain is left in a situation where it lacks a judicial instrument to impose limitations on personal liberties which are suited to a pandemic.” Delta variantRafael Bengoa, a former World Health Organization health systems director who is now the director of the Institute for Health and Strategy in Bilbao, said he believed Spain has been overwhelmed by the spread of the delta variant.“I said three weeks ago we would not control the delta variant. That variant is faster in everything; more transmissible, more virulent, when infected you reach higher viral loads sooner,” he told VOA.“Hospitals are beginning to fill up like they did in the UK with younger people. Vaccination is proving insufficient when there is community transmission and that can only be controlled with much tougher measures,” he said. “At present regional authorities must ask judges if they can bring in curfews, close bars etc but this is a sign of helplessness. Re-centralization of decisions would help to save the end of the summer,” Bengoa added. 

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