• Quote: ‘Variants could emerge that are resistant to the vaccine. We have to be very cautious – at a time when other respiratory viruses are appearing’

By Andrew Atkinson

The 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants in Spain has fallen to 48.92.

It is the first time since July 28, 2020 that the incidence rate has dropped below 50 cases – the threshold for a ‘low risk’ situation.

Spain is detecting fewer coronavirus cases than most countries in the EU, under minimal Covid-19 restrictions.

The decrease in cases, combined with hospital occupancy rates also considered low, have placed Spain in a situation mirroring the lockdown in Spring 2020.

Under the new coronavirus measures in place, including limits on capacity and opening hours being lifted, has not lead to a rise in cases.

Spain’s epidemiological target to fall below 25 cases per 100,000 inhabitants is considered to indicate the spread of Covid-19 is under control.

“It is a moment of optimism that we have a low incidence rate – but this hides the enormous differences among regions and age groups,” said Alberto Infante, emeritus professor of international health at the National Health School of the Carlos III Health Institute.

“The average incidence of 50 is not a magic number – nor a safe number to aspire to.

“The virus remains active and we cannot hasten the relaxation of restrictions – especially in schools,” said Daniel López-Acuña, former director of emergencies at the World Health Organization (WHO).

The 14-day cumulative number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants among Spain’s under-12 population, the only age group for whom no vaccine has been approved, is 82, as at October 8.

Catalonia announced Universities will return to 100% in-person classes and night time venues will re-open.

Patrons will need to present a Covid certificate certifying that they have either had Covid-19 over the last 6 months, tested negative for the coronavirus via a PCR test, or are vaccinated.

A measure that needs approval by the Catalan High Court.

Madrid has lifted all capacity restrictions on the food and entertainment sector.

Spain’s Basque Country outdoor stadiums can open at full capacity, with indoor sports centres such as basketball stadiums remaining at 80% capacity.

The health chief of Andalusia, Jesús Aguirre, said restrictions on capacity and opening hours are expected to be lifted in around two-thirds of the southern region.

Pedro Gullón, from the Spanish Epidemiology Society, said: “It is desirable for restrictions to be lifted but it must be done coherently across all areas.

“If we are acting in places with a very high economic impact, such as bars, which I am not criticising, it doesn’t make sense that restrictions are not lifted in other areas, such as libraries or hospital visits, which has a high social impact.”

Spain’s majority of the population are fully vaccinated against Covid-19, as winter approaches.

The potential convergence of other respiratory viruses between autumn and winter could put the healthcare system under greater pressure.

During September 13-17, the incidence rate dropped 21.46%; last week, w/c October 4, it fell 11.48%.

Gullón added: “Perhaps we shouldn’t be either triumphant, thinking we are free of risk, or defeatist, trying to maintain limits that people are very tired of.

“Now that there are few cases is the time to act with more epidemiological intelligence so that, if problems do emerge, such as a virus that resists the vaccines, or if these lose their effectiveness, we can act early.”

López-Acuña added: “Variants could emerge that are resistant to the vaccine. We have to be very cautious – at a time when other respiratory viruses are appearing.”