Spain, for now, it would seem, is staving off a ‘sixth wave’ of Covid-19. However, some authorities in Spanish regions, that are seeing an upward trend in infections, want to follow other European countries by requiring a Covid health pass which will allow those who have been vaccinated to live a more ‘normal’ life.
It won’t be the first time that ‘health passes’ have been used, as communities in regions such as Cantabria, Catalonia and Galicia already need one to enter cocktail bars.
The increase in infections across Spain in the last week, however, has led the decision to revisit the idea, to help differentiate between those who have been vaccinated and those who haven’t, in order to protect the former.
The latest fortnightly infection rate has slowly increased seeing Spain move up to the ‘medium risk’ category, over the past ten days, although pressure on hospitals and ICU wards still remains low.
Communities that currently have the highest incidence rate are Navarre (159 cases per 100,000 people), the Basque Country (143 per 100,000), Aragón (122 per 100,000), the Balearic Islands (103 per 100,000) and Catalonia (92 per 100,000).
These regional authorities, as well as others who fear they will be next to see infection rates rise, are now rethinking their Covid strategies and are contemplating the introduction of the ‘Covid health pass’ that is currently required across the EU. Spain currently only really uses it for overseas travel.
If given the go-ahead, the health pass would be required to gain access to bars, restaurants and many other establishments.
According to the European Center for Disease Control, Austria, whose incidence rate is currently 900 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, acted harshly against the unvaccinated on Sunday by decreeing partial confinement. This means the unvaccinated will only be able to leave their homes to either go to work, study, shop or go for a walk.
Austrian Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg said, "The vaccination rate is shamefully low and without raising it we cannot get out of this vicious circle”.
Germany and the Netherlands have also started to put plans into action to fight against a sixth wave, Germany has mobilised the army and the Netherlands have brought back time restrictions, capacity limits and have once again vetoed the attendance for sports competitions.
Back in Spain, the regional governments of Aragón, Castilla y León, the Canary Islands, Galicia, Murcia and Navarre are all reflecting on whether to push forward with this legislation for all hospitality venues, whilst Andalusia wants it for concerts and sports stadiums.
The mayor of the Basque city of Vitoria, Gorka Urtaran is also very much in favour of distinguishing between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated when it comes to Covid-19 restrictions. He said “everyone is free to choose whether to get vaccinated or not” but “unvaccinated people will have to live a different kind of life”.
It is however critical that it is approved by regional courts, which is the main reason why the Covid health pass for daily affairs never really took off in Spain in the first place.
Whereas many governments across Europe have embraced this controversial measure, seeing it as a means of stemming infections, regional authorities in Andalusia, Cantabria, Galicia and the Canary Islands, all saw how local judges rejected the introduction of the health pass, with some of them even labelling it as “unnecessary” and “not ideal”.
To date, the only requirement that is needed to have access to nightlife venues, plus some larger events in the regions of Catalonia, Galicia and the Balearic is the Digital Covid Certificate. But with almost 80% of Spain’s total population fully vaccinated and social gatherings set to multiply over the Christmas period, the regional high courts may be inclined to reconsider whether they should be rejecting the widely used Covid health pass as a precaution.
Also in Spain with the sixth wave not yet arrived, the authorities are already putting the accent on the unvaccinated. They are fewer because they represent less than 11% of those who can be vaccinated but Carolina Darias, the Minister of Health and the counsellors see a "pattern that is repeated" in the hospitals of all the communities. The Interterritorial Health Council last week issued an appeal to all unvaccinated people to agree to be immunised.
According to regional health data, at present 60 to 70% of hospitalised Covid patients in Spain have not been vaccinated and in ICU wards in Murcia, that figure rises to 100% and in the Valencia region 90%.
In addition to this, Darias once again heard the request of Juan José Pedreño, the counsellor of Murcia who asked for a "legal framework" at the state level that "guarantees" that the Covid passport can be required in "leisure and mass events".
Pedreño said it should be specifically aimed at those aged between 20 and 39 years of age, with the lowest immunization rate in the country.
Imaged Credit: Pool Moncloa/Borja Puig de la Bellacasa