Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez has called for an emergency meeting with regional leaders after warning the Spanish public of the “real risk” of the new Omicron variant.
In a televised address to the nation on Sunday, Sánchez said that he would be meeting with regional presidents on Wednesday afternoon to analyse the evolution of the pandemic and evaluate new measures which would be put into place over the next few weeks to help slow the spread of the virus.
Sánchez warned that despite Spain having an infection rate lower than other EU countries, the numbers have continued to climb in recent weeks placing additional pressure on the country’s hospitals.
Although the Spanish government has acknowledged that the current figures are "worrying", for now, restrictions on movement at a national level have been ruled out.
He said the number of infections still represented a “clear and real warning to the health of our fellow Spaniards and as such, must compel us to intensify our actions”.
Friday’s official figures from the country’s Ministry of Health show that the 14-day cumulative infection rate per 100,000 residents now stands at 511 which is considered to be ‘high risk’ based on the government’s updated traffic light system. This figure is more than double the figure published on December 1, which was 217 cases per 100,000.
"The figures in the last few hours, with a cumulative incidence rate of 511 positive tests for every 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days, pose a real risk to the health of our compatriots. I've decided to call an extraordinary meeting for Wednesday 22 December to analyse the evolution of the pandemic and study measures with which to face it," said Sánchez. "This new wave has different characteristics."
In recent weeks the number of hospitalisations has also increased significantly. As of Friday, there were 6,667 people receiving hospital care due to Covid-19 compared to 3,957 at the start of December.
The number of people in ICU also continues to climb with 1,306 reported on Friday, December 12, compared to 741 just two weeks earlier.
Despite the increase, Sánchez was quick to point out that the numbers were still less than those recorded at the same time last year with fewer people requiring hospital treatment and taking up ICU beds.
The Prime Minister said that the conclusion to be drawn from this is that the vaccine campaign was working, urging Spaniards to continue to be vaccinated against the virus.
Esta nueva ola de #COVID19 tiene características distintas y nos afecta en circunstancias muy diferentes. Con más contagios, las cifras de hospitalización y ocupación de UCIs son inferiores.— Pedro Sánchez (@sanchezcastejon) December 19, 2021
Las vacunas funcionan. Perseveremos: vacunación, vacunación y vacunación. pic.twitter.com/0KovnX9Mm5
Latest Ministry of Health figures show that 37,777,929 citizens or 89.7% of the population had now been fully vaccinated against the virus.
Around 70% of over 60s have also received the Covid booster jab.
On December 15, the campaign to vaccinate around 3.3 million under 12s began.
This is the group with the highest infection rate which as of Friday, December 17, stood at 705 cases per 100,000.
The mass immunisation of Spain’s minors is viewed by many as the solution to prevent the healthcare system from potentially becoming overloaded over the coming weeks.
Image Credit: Pool Moncloa/Fernando Calvo