Socialization pushes Spain’s Covid-19 rate far above the rest of Europe | Free reading

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The coronavirus is spreading much faster in Spain than in the rest of Europe, facing the country in a race against time to bring the epidemic under control before the return to school and work next month after the holiday season .

Figures released on Friday by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control, an EU agency, showed that in the previous 14 days Spain had reported around 145 new cases of Covid-19 per 100,000 population .

Apart from Malta, no other European country had a ratio above 100, and the Spanish figures compare to ratios of 51 in France and 21 in the UK.

In three districts of Madrid, the Spanish region with most cases, the equivalent ratio is above 400 and in one it is almost 600. On Friday, the regional government of Madrid urged residents of the most affected areas to stay at home .

“No one should be confused: things are not going well,” said Thursday evening Fernando Simón, the doctor who is leading the country’s effort against the pandemic, acknowledging that in some parts of the country the spread of the virus was out. control.

National and regional officials largely attribute the rapid resurgence of the virus to uncontrolled groups of young people drinking and socializing – as well as gatherings of family members – and are starting to warn that despite months of planning, students may not be able to return to full class.

Dr Simón pleaded for social media influencers to use their influence with young people to persuade them of the dangers of the virus. “We cannot allow this to continue,” he said. “I understand that people want to party, but there are many ways to party.”

Critics say Madrid and Spain as a whole must step up efforts to track and trace the spread of the virus. In Madrid, where more than 2,600 new cases were reported on Thursday, there are around 550 trackers.

“Unless citizens take responsibility, in terms of staying at home if they have been in contact [with someone infected], we could have the best follow-up in the world and it won’t be enough, ”Enrique Ruiz Escudero, chief health officer for the Madrid region, told the Financial Times. “Most of the outbreaks we detected were family or social gatherings, when people relax and think they can’t get infected.”

With the disease resurging in a town that has been largely deserted for the beach, the challenge is to avoid another disastrous wave when people return to school and work in about two weeks, as well as during flu season. ‘autumn.

As is the case in countries like France and Germany, the number of daily cases recorded in Spain has already returned to levels not seen since spring. On Thursday, the health ministry reported more than 7,000 new cases and said 122 people had died in the previous week. That compares to a death toll of 22 in the week through August 6.

Mr Ruiz Escudero pointed out that current hospitalizations and intensive care cases are only a fraction of the levels reached during the peak of the pandemic in March and April, and that those affected are overall much younger than ‘before. About half of all new cases in Spain are asymptomatic.

He added that the high totals in Madrid were in part the result of large-scale random testing in the worst-affected areas, dismissing criticism that the region’s center-right government was too quick to relax checks when Spain’s national lockdown ended on June 21.

Madrid, along with the rest of the country, is now reimposing some controls, this week decreeing nightclubs and discos – although a judge on Friday reportedly overturned the order.

Mr Ruiz Escudero said the region was examining “all possible scenarios” for returning to school, including part-time attendance, and called for a national agreement on protocols on how schools should respond to cases of Covid-19.

“The phase-out of the lockdown accelerated too much in June,” said Miguel Otero, an analyst at the Elcano Institute, a think tank, who served on a government committee on the transition to a new normal. “People felt like the virus was getting under control and there was enormous pressure on the economy to reopen, especially the tourism and entertainment sectors.”

Mr Otero also suggested that part of the reason Covid-19 was now more prevalent in Spain than elsewhere was the country’s love for bars and family gatherings.

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