Christmas lights in Valencia. / EUROPA PRESS

Spain's Ministry of Health recommends limiting the number of participants at Christmas events

The national coronavirus incidence rate has climbed above 200, for the first time since 2 September, and hospital intensive care unit pressure has also increased again

ÁLVARO SOTO

The worsening coronavirus situation, with the threat of the new Omicron variant on the horizon, may lead to restrictions being imposed in Spain in the run up to Christmas.

On Tuesday, 30 November, the national Ministry of Health recommended the implementation of measures to prevent the increase in infections and specifically, asked people "to establish limits on the number of participants at public and social events, especially during Christmas holiday celebrations", although without giving precise figures on what these "limits " should be.

The advice was published in a rapid risk assessment document 'Variants of SARS-CoV-2 in Spain: Omicron and Delta', prepared by the Centre for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies (CCAES), headed by Fernando Simón. The Ministry prepares rapid risk assessments when variants appear that are listed as "of concern", which has happened with Omicron.

In the document, the reduction of the number of participants at Christmas events is not the only request made by CCAES experts in view of the "current epidemiological context" and "the uncertainties associated with the Omicron variant."

Prevention measures

They also request "the early implementation of prevention measures", that include, "the appropriate use of a mask, interpersonal distance, adequate ventilation in closed spaces and hand hygiene", and advise "to continue increasing the vaccination cover percentage and the administration of additional ‘booster’ doses in target populations ”. In addition, they call for "intensifying the control and monitoring measures of people from southern Africa."

After the appearance of the first two confirmed cases of Omicron in Spain, both in Madrid, and with the complete vaccination regimen, the CCAES considers that "the risk of new introductions" of the variant is "very high" and that of spread "high". And they argue that if the mutation spreads widely in the population, if it is proved to be more contagious "the impact may be high."

'Vaccination works'

The Public Health Commission, the national body that brings together the Ministry of Health and the regions to manage the pandemic, already has the possibility of establishing restrictions on the table, although Minister Carolina Darias, speaking on Tuesday said, “First, and before introducing restrictions, you have to vaccinate. We already know that this is what works”, she pointed out.

Upward trend

Meanwhile the pandemic in Spain continues its upward trend. The cumulative incidence rate rose again, by nine, on Tuesday to stand at 208.50, the first time it has been above 200 since 2 September. The number of new Covid-19 infections recorded in the last 24 hours also increased, reaching 10,261. Some 44 coronavirus deaths were also added. The increase in infections is already is already being reflected in hospital pressure and intensive care unit occupancy by Covid patients rose to 7.76 per cent from 7.33 per cent on Monday.