Spain’s rate of Covid-19 infections has become the highest in mainland Europe. This is due to a dramatic increase in the Delta variant among under-30s, who are largely unvaccinated.
Infections are up to 20 times as frequent among 12–29-year-olds as those over 70, who are most likely to be hospitalized after being infected. The Spanish government attributed the rise to social gatherings and travel within the country.
Reyes Maroto, Spain’s tourism minister, argues that vaccine rates should be used “to measure country risk” as opposed to the rates of infection. She continued to say that Spain remained “a safe tourist destination”, as around 41 per cent of the population is fully vaccinated.
The Spanish government rejected the notion that allowing tourism from Britain has led to an increase in the Delta variant. Fernando Simón, an epidemiologist leading Spain’s fight against coronavirus, emphasised Spain’s policy which demanded UK tourists to show either a negative test or proof of vaccination before entering the country.
Professor Fernando Rodríguez Artalejo, an epidemiologist at the Autonomous University of Madrid, said “I don’t see the Delta variant as a game changer given the high vaccination rate among the vulnerable Spanish population […] It is true there are many infections, but neither here nor in the UK is it producing a relevant increase in hospitalisations. The probably very negative impact on tourism is another question.”
As a step back from the national scrapping of almost all national Covid restrictions in May, the Catalonia region said it was reintroducing restrictions on nightlife while Castile-León called for a return to a curfew system in response to the rise in cases. The Catalonia region remains the worst affected in the country.
Spain is behind Portugal on the 14-day rate more widely used in the EU, but the recent surge from 58 cases per 100,000 on June 29th to 156 on July 1st gives Spain the lead as having the highest infection rate in mainland Europe. The EU country with the highest infection rate is Cyprus, with a seven-day rate of 424.