Spain rejects virus confinement unlike other European countriesEuropost
While most of Europe kicked off 2021 with earlier curfews or stay-at-home orders, authorities in Spain insist the new coronavirus variant causing havoc elsewhere is not to blame for a sharp resurgence of cases and that the country can avoid a full lockdown even as its hospitals fill up, AP reported.
The government has been tirelessly fending off drastic home confinement like the one that paralyzed the economy for nearly three months in the spring of 2020. Nearly 39,000 new cases were reported Wednesday and over 35,000 on Thursday, some of the highest daily increases to date.
The surge is again threatening intensive care unit capacity and burdening exhausted medical workers. Some facilities have already suspended elective surgery, and the eastern city of Valencia has reopened a makeshift hospital used last year.
Unlike Portugal, which is going on a month-long lockdown on Friday and doubling fines for those who don’t wear masks, officials in Spain insist it will be enough to take short, highly localized measures that restrict social gatherings without affecting the whole economy.
Spain’s Health Minster Salvador Illa ruled out a national home confinement order and advocating for “measures that were a success during the second wave.”
Fernando Simon, the government’s top virus expert, has blamed the recent increase in cases on Christmas and New Year’s celebrations. “The new variant, even if it has an impact, it will be a marginal one, at least in our country,” he said this week.
But many independent experts disagree and say Spain has no capacity to conduct the widespread sequencing of samples to detect how the new variants have spread, and that 88 confirmed and nearly 200 suspected cases that officials say have largely been imported from the UK are underestimating the real impact.
Dr. Rafael Bengoa, former director of Healthcare Systems at the World Health Organization, told The Associated Press the government should immediately enact “a strict but short” four-week confinement.
The situation in Spain contrasts starkly with other European countries that have also shown similar sharp leaps in cases, increasingly more of them blamed on the more contagious variant first detected in the UK
The Netherlands, which has been locked down for a month, has seen the pace of infections starting to drop. But with 2% to 5% of new COVID-19 cases from the new variant, the country is from Friday requiring air passengers from the UK, Ireland and South Africa to provide not only a negative PCR test taken a maximum of 72 hours before departure but also a rapid antigen test result from immediately before takeoff.
France, where a recent study of 100,000 positive tests yielded about 1% of infections with the variant, is imposing curfews as early as 6 p.m., and Health Minister Oliver Veran has not ruled out a stay-at-home order if the situation worsens.
Ireland instituted a complete lockdown after widespread infections were found to be tied to the new variant. Italy has a color-coded system that activates a strict lockdown at its highest or red level, although no areas are currently at that stage.
In the UK, scientific evidence of the new variant has silenced some critics of restrictions and spurred PM Boris Johnson to impose measures that are strict but slightly milder than the nation’s first lockdown. People have been ordered to stay home except for limited essential trips and exercise, and schools have been closed except for some exceptions.
In Germany, where the 7-day rolling average of daily new cases has recently shot up to 26 per 100,000 people, many high-ranking officials are arguing that the existing strict confinement order needs to be toughened and extended beyond its current end-of-January expiration.
Nordic countries have rejected full-on mandatory lockdowns, instead instituting tight limitations on gatherings and certain activities. Residents have been asked to follow specific recommendations to limit the spread of the virus.
In Sweden, the issue is both legal and political, as no law exists that would allow the government to restrict the population’s mobility.