Spain is Europe’s latest COVID-19 hotspot, spreading faster than US

  • In the last week, Spain recorded more than 53,000 new COVID-19 cases.
  • In that period the virus spread quicker than in the US, and more than twice as fast as in France.
  • Spain imposed a strict lockdown until late June, but has had a more relaxed approach since.
  • An epidemiologist in Barcelona told The New York Times: “Perhaps Spain is the canary in the coal mine. Many countries may follow us…”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Spain recorded more than 53,000 new COVID-19 cases in the last week, per The New York Times.

Adjusted for population, that figure means the virus is spreading there faster than in the US, and at more than twice the rate of neighboring France.

Barcelona Institute for Global Health epidemiologist Antoni Trilla told the Times that Spain’s latest spike may be a glimpse of Europe’s future.

“Perhaps Spain is the canary in the coal mine,” he said. “Many countries may follow us — but hopefully not at the same speed or with the same number of cases that we are facing.”

COVID-19 cases are also rising in Italy, Belgium, Greece, Germany, and in Eastern Europe.

Since Spain eased its strict lockdown in late June, loose restrictions for family gatherings, street parties, and night clubs, have been blamed for the coronavirus resurgence, according to the Times.

It also cited factors like tourism, and inadequate housing for migrants.

Barcelona, Spain, COVID-19 coronavirus August 31 2020

People in line for a coronavirus test in Barcelona, Spain, on August 31, 2020.

AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti

As of August 31, Spain has the ninth most cases in the world with a cumulative 462,858 COVID-19 cases, and 29,094 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Many of those previously infected will have since recovered.

The infection rate in Madrid is double that of the rest of the country, according to Anadolu Agency. Officials there have starting using hotel rooms to house patients with mild symptoms, it said.

The current resurgence in the virus is less deadly than when the pandemic first hit Europe earlier in the year. Spain’s mortality rate is now around 6.6%, almost half that of its peak in May of 12%.

Those getting COVID-19 are also much younger — the median age of the infected is now 37, when it was previously 60. 

On Monday night, speaking on Catalonian TV, Spain’s Health Minister Salvador Illa said the current spike was not comparable to the first peak, where at one point, Spain’s daily deaths reached 900 per day, Reuters reported. 

“Of course we are worried because we have to stabilize and bring down the infection chain,” he said. 

Illa said it was unlikely that another state of emergency would be imposed, or that schools would close. 

He said the main aim was to avoid putting pressure on hospitals.

Dr. María del Mar Vázquez, the medical director of a hospital in Málaga, told the Times that hospitals are now in a better position than last time.

She noted that staff now have experience with COVID-19, protocols are in place, and healthcare workers have better equipment.

“The hospitals will be full — but we are ready,” she said. 

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