The face mask ceased to be mandatory indoors on 20 April. / SUR

Easter and the end of masks bring the seventh wave of Covid closer in Spain

The situation differs by autonomous region, and half of Spain has an incidence rate in the vulnerable population of over a thousand

ÁLVARO SOTO

Spain is potentially facing the seventh wave of Covid-19 with a cumulative incidence rate that has rocketed after Easter and with the end of the mandatory use of face masks indoors.

This indicator in those over 60 years of age, the only one that is measured in the current ‘flu’ phase of the pandemic, stood at 676.43 infections per 100,000 population this Friday (29 April), some 68 more than Tuesday and 60 per cent more than the 8 April figure of 426.15, the last day it was measured before Easter Sunday. Additionally, it is very likely that it will continue to grow in the coming days, since the seven-day incidence rate stands at 382.15, more than half that of fourteen.

The situation differs by autonomous region, and half of Spain has an incidence rate in the vulnerable population of over a thousand. According to this Friday's report from the Ministry of Health, Navarra has the worst data, with 1,440, and behind it are the Asturias (1,282), Murcia (1,228), Galicia (1,199), Castilla y León (1,164), La Rioja (1,147), Extremadura (1,130) and Cantabria (1,085). On the other hand, Andalucía (402), Catalonia (433) and Melilla (483) mark the national minimums.

Infections increase

The number of infections has also increased notably in the last week, coinciding with the end of the masks and taking into account, in addition, that tests are no longer carried out on the entire population, but only on those over 60, the vulnerable population, and to suspected cases determined by doctors. Still, some 62,695 people have been infected in the last three days, 13,500 more than the 49,143 reported last Friday. Total infections since the beginning of the pandemic have risen to 11,896,152, according to official statistics.

Hospital pressure

However, despite the increase in incidence and infections, hospitals resist the pressure and occupancy figures have even fallen. Covid patients represent 5.12% of all occupied hospital beds (5.22% on Tuesday) and 3.66% of intensive care unit beds (4.05%). Currently, 6,362 coronavirus patients are admitted to the wards, of which 329 are in intensive care. In addition, the Ministry of Health has recorded 229 deaths since Tuesday, which places the total number of deaths since March 2020 with a positive coronavirus test at 104,456.

"Act prudently"

Experts agree that the end of masks and Easter celebrations have increased the risk of contagion. “And we will probably see it even more after the Seville Fair and other similar festive events if we do not act prudently,” says José Martínez Olmos, an expert in Public Health and former Secretary General of Health between 2005 and 2011. "It is difficult to predict a new wave, but it is very likely that in the coming weeks the incidence figures will continue to grow and that is why it is worth reminding that the mask is useful for prevention," he adds.

"The virus continues to circulate"

Marcos López Hoyos, president of the Spanish Society of Immunology, speaks along the same lines. “With the end of the quarantines and the face mask, the message that has been transferred to the population is that the virus has already gone but, no, the virus continues to circulate,” underlines the specialist, who believes that the protection should have been withdrawn "ten or fifteen days after Easter". López Hoyos points out that the incidence in the general population is well above that of those over 60 years of age, but explains that "thanks to the high levels of vaccination, with a third dose, the increase in infections is not yet punishing the hospitals”.