Why is Spain seeing such a huge rise in coronavirus cases after such a tough lockdown?

Spain suffered one of the most draconian lockdowns in the world, with images of police standing on street corners in masks hounding anyone who dared leave their house.

Movement was restricted to bare essentials such as food shopping for weeks after cases started to rise.

A state of alarm by Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez was called as cases shot up.

But two months after it was lifted, the virus is spreading faster than in any neighbouring nation.

By the time the state of emergency ended on 21st of June, Spain was registering 100 to 150 cases per day. That number has risen to more than 3,000 per day.

Spain has Europe’s fastest-rising caseload, with 142 positive cases per 100,000 inhabitants over the past two weeks.

Critics have blamed it on the 18-34 age group and they could be right.

Most of the transmission is now between young people, and around three-quarters of positives are in patients who show no symptoms.

And this age group were the first to hit the bars and clubs straight after the state of alarm ended with residents and foreigners venturing into town together.

Popular party places like Mallorca and Ibiza also reopened their doors with images of people huddled together singing and kissing.

Albert Tomàs, a barman in Barcelona said: “I work in a night bar near the beach and there are a lot of young people drinking and smoking together. The problem is young people don’t understand how this virus increases.”

However, Spain’s summer season never really kicked off due to Spain being put on the red list for quarantine meaning those coming to and fro have to self-isolate for 14 days.

There was also restrictions placed on bar’s and club’s capacities and time limits for closing set earlier than usual.

Crowds have also gathered at national festivals including in Navarre’s capital of Pamplona for the 7 July start date of the world-famous San Fermín bull-running fiesta.

In the neighbouring Basque Country, which is just ahead of Navarre as Spain’s third worst-affected region this month, youthful gatherings have also been linked to outbreaks.

Of the 350 people called to turn up for testing after a busy night at Bilbao’s Back&Stage nightclub last month, at least 34 proved positive, the kind of result that has prompted an agreement between Spain’s authorities to close down all nightlife after 01:00.

“It was like any other night at the club and many people were not wearing a face mask even when dancing. I was among the first to take mine off,” 18-year-old Arkaitz Serrano said.

“Spaniards were extremely fastidious about following the rules during the lockdown, but there has been a massive relaxation now we have returned to a kind of normality,” notes Prof Hernández.

Under new emergency powers, the Basque government this week banned so-called botellón parties, alcohol-fuelled outdoor gatherings of young people.

The number of deaths over the past week stood at 122 on Thursday, down from the 950 deaths on the blackest day in Spain and all of Europe registered on 2nd April.

Only around 3% of current cases require hospital treatment, less than 0.5% need intensive care and the current death rate is as low as 0.3%.

“Mortality is very low, as is the hospitalisation rate. Something has changed big time, although the rise is still worrying,” says Ildefonso Hernández, a professor in public health from Miguel Hernández University in Alicante.

“As long as cases are rising, we have to think that a second wave is on the way. We don’t have much time to react before September’s return to routines.”

Outbreaks have been rife in Spain, especially in Catalonia and Aragon.

Aragón’s capital, Zaragoza has also seen numerous outbreaks in the area after fruit and vegetable pickers and packers were allowed to return to work for the season.

However, many of the workers are ‘wandering migrants’ who work for a time being and then are free to leave.

This, some experts believe, has been one of main components of why the virus has respread again so fast in Spain.

Growers and packing companies have been criticised for not providing accommodation for migrant workers, leading them to travel between shelters and fields or subsist in insanitary shanties.

“Everything happening in Aragón is very much connected to outbreaks among the seasonal fruit-pickers. There should have been more anticipation of the problems that could arise due to the accommodation situation of these workers,” explains Juan González Armengol, president of the Spanish Society of Emergency Medicine (Semes).

Worst of all, more than 55 care homes for the elderly in Aragón have registered cases since the end of the state of emergency.

Spain’s capital Madrid, which has suffered the heaviest case load since the pandemic began, is now seeing cases double week after week.

The city alone has 50% more deaths than Catalonia, the most populous region of Spain.

Police have been tasked with breaking up the city’s youth problem who have been gathering for street parties.

This is the fallout of clubs and bars being closed with the youth taking to the streets instead.

Officially, 28,813 have died from Covid-19 – Spain’s health ministry counts only those who tested positive for the virus
According to excess death statistics, close to 44,596 are believed to have died from the illness.

19,000 are said to have been elderly people in care homes.


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