Queues for coronavirus vaccinations, this Monday, in Valencia. / EFE

Spain's sixth wave of Covid escalates as the national incidence rate nears 400

After the weekend, the Ministry of Health notified 49,802 new infections, 103 deaths and an increase in hospital ICU pressure

ÁLVARO SOTO

The sixth wave of coronavirus seems to be running amok in parts of Spain with the arrival of the December festivities. The national 14-day cumulative incidence rate on Monday, 13 December, showed the effects of mobility and a greater number of personal contacts during the Constitution Day ‘bridge’ holiday and climbed 58 over the weekend, to reach 381.26 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.

The country as a whole, which remains at high risk, is getting closer to the 500 that marks the very high risk threshold, but there are regions in a far worse situation, such as Navarra, with a rate of 1,197; the Basque Country, with 905, or Aragon, with 728.

These large increases in the incidence rate in all the regions have their origin in the enormous number of new infections. Spain’s Ministry of Health added 49,802 new positives in the last 48 hours, a figure typical of the worst Monday of the pandemic. With this latest increase, the total number of Covid-19 infections since March last year rises to 5,339,992, according to official statistics.

Coronavirus deaths

And something similar is happening with the number of deaths, which are at levels not seen since mid-September. The Health department, headed by Carolina Darias, registered 103 deaths between Saturday and Sunday, taking the total number of deaths from Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, with a positive test, to 88,484.

Hospital pressure

Meanwhile, hospital pressure increases, with intensive care units at 12.60 per cent of their capacity occupied by Covid patients (11.41 per cent last Friday). The are 1,166 coronavirus patients are intensive care units nationally more than 5,000 Covid-19 patients on the wards, representing 5.11 per cent of the total number of beds.

As with the fifth wave, the Delta variant is the behind the sixth onslaught of Covid-19. Among the coronavirus cases detected in Spain, the presence of Omicron is still tiny. According to an official report, from 29 November (when the first case was discovered) until 5 December only 36 infections with the new variant had been confirmed, 17 of them in travellers from South Africa or their close contacts, and 19 without links to travel to countries considered high risk.

Omicron variant

But Spain's Centre for the Coordination of Health Alerts and Emergencies (CCAES), author of the document, maintains that the limited number of cases of the variant detected so far does not imply that the guard can be lowered, far from it. Fernando Simón's department recalls that Omicron has more than 30 mutations in the S gene, "several of them related to increased transmissibility and escape from immunity."

"The first evidence indicates a greater escape from immunity than for Delta", points out the CCAES, which warns of the rapid expansion of the variant throughout the world, with "community transmission and rapid growth rate in several European countries."