Curfew in Barcelona, ​​Madrid delays: Spain divided against Omicron

The long queues in front of the medical analysis laboratories, visible for a few days, were a bad omen. Wednesday 22 December, Spain officially admitted to being submerged by a sixth wave of Covid – 19. The President of the Government, the Socialist Pedro Sánchez, announced the return of the compulsory wearing of masks outside, a measure that had been abandoned on 25 last June. A decree-law must be adopted in this sense in the Council of Ministers from Thursday 19 December.

The tests are starting to run out

The country is however, with Portugal, one of the best vaccinated in Europe, with 91, 8% of adults who received at least two doses of anti-Covid serum. But the figures for the epidemic, as elsewhere in Europe, are in turn soaring in the Iberian Peninsula. The test kits are starting to run out, but there are already 49 000 positive cases detected every day, unheard of since the start of the pandemic . The incidence rate is around 640 for 100 inhabitants (on average over fourteen days), a score 69% higher than last week. However, hospitalizations and intensive care admissions are much lower than in previous waves.

Number of daily cases in Spain.

Screenshot Our World in Data

As the health sector falls under the competence of the autonomous regions, prevention takes various forms in the country. In Catalonia, severe restrictive measures were taken at the start of the week, with the return of the curfew between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m., the end of all nightlife (bars and nightclubs) and the ban gatherings of more than ten people in closed places.

The government is procrastinating

The government of Barcelona would have liked to see this device generalized to the whole of Spain. At the end of the meeting which was held on video, Wednesday afternoon, between Pedro Sánchez and the presidents of the regions, the chief executive however preferred to delay. “Spain is resisting and families will be able to celebrate Christmas as planned,” he said, aware of the weariness of the population who had so far been preparing to spend the end of year celebrations in peace. Informed of the arrival of the Omicron variant, which would represent half of the positive cases, the Spaniards even hope to be able to live without hindrance until the celebration of Epiphany on January 6. A party which traditionally gives place, the evening before, to gatherings of crowds in the street, to attend parades of floats.

The autonomous community of Madrid is more lax. Its president Isabel Díaz Ayuso (Partido Popular, center right) has for months shown its fierce opposition to any blocking of economic activity, in the name of the freedom of citizens to move. If five regions out of seventeen still refuse to do so, the other twelve have been imposing a health pass at the entrance to restaurants, sports halls and hospitals since the beginning of December.

The army as reinforcements

For the time being, there is no question of considering any reconfinement. On the other hand, the national slogan is to accelerate the vaccination campaign, with the reinforcement of the army, where the need will be felt. The government’s objective is ambitious: 70% of people aged 59 at 69 years will have to receive their third injection by 28 December, 80% from 50 at 59 years from now to 23 January, 70% from 40 at 49 years by the first week of March. At this point, three-quarters of the over 59 years have already received their booster dose and the vaccination of children has started well, since 13% of 5 to 11 year-old received their first dose in just a few days.

No debate on vaccination

In Spain, vaccination is hardly debated and the authorities’ calls for caution are globally respected. The same goes for neighboring Portugal, where the Prime Minister warned on Tuesday evening, in a televised address, that the travel restrictions planned for the beginning of January would finally come into force from 25 December: return of mandatory teleworking and closure of schools and nurseries until 01 at least January. António Costa called on his fellow citizens to get tested as much as possible.

As in Italy, travelers arriving from abroad must again present a negative PCR test on their arrival in Portugal, since the beginning of December. Nowadays, 89% of Portuguese adults show a complete vaccination schedule. The incidence rate of Covid – 11 is currently 580 case for 100 000 inhabitants .