As the Omicron variant becomes the dominant strain across the globe, Spain has started to accumulate its share of cases after a relatively slow start. Now with its incidence rate reaching a peak of 2,433 per 100,000 people, Spain has the highest infection rate of all of Europe.
The number of infections that Spain recorded on Tuesday 4 January pushed its infection rate over that of the UK’s 2,326, despite Britain’s record-breaking case numbers over the festive period. Almost a third of all tests carried out in Spain are returning positive results, even as the number of tests taken increases.
Although the Health Ministry announced that it wanted to discontinue the use of the infection rate as an indicator of how well Spain is coping with Covid-19, it is still being used as the standard three months after the statement was made. Various reasons are being reported as to why the infection rate does not paint the whole picture in regards to the virus, including the relationship to hospital occupancy and the overall death rate.
Some experts think that the high numbers of infections are pushing the country towards herd immunity, reports The Local. “It is difficult to guarantee this,” Daniel Enrique Pleguezuelo, immunologist at Madrid’s 12 de Octubre hospital, told Spanish medical publication Redacción Médica.
“But with such a high rate of infection and fortunately mild symptoms in most cases, thanks to vaccination and the changes that this variant brings, we will most likely achieve sufficient group immunity to allow us to think of putting this difficult period behind us.”
When looking at hospital occupancy, however, there are worrying signs that this wave will still cause many problems through the highest infection rate seen yet. Spain’s hospitals have now admitted more Covid-19 patients than in the previous two waves, causing knock-on effects throughout the health service.
“We cannot talk about group immunity yet, not in the conventional sense,” leading Spanish immunologist Margarita del Val told Business Insider about the fact that even though 90 per cent of Spain’s over 12s are fully vaccinated, the inoculations available don’t prevent transmission.
“Herd immunity is when vaccinated people are like shields, they are not contagious and they do not infect others.”
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