Health authorities in Spain are taking preventive action to ward off a collapse in the healthcare system, including giving out instructions not to admit certain categories of elderly patients.
In Zaragoza, one of the worst-affected areas in Spain since the nationwide lockdown was lifted on June 21, the army began setting up a field hospital in the car park of the city’s Clínico Universitario in a bid to prevent a saturation of coronavirus patients.
Zaragoza and the surrounding region of Aragon are at the centre of Spain’s worst outbreak of Covid-19 after the country’s draconian lockdown had brought the epidemic to a virtual standstill in June.
Fernando Simón, the health ministry’s Covid-19 spokesman, admitted this week that community transmission was taking place in “certain neighbourhoods” of Zaragoza, while the transmission ratio in the Aragon region has topped 500 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, more than five times the average in Spain.
Javier Lambán, Aragon’s president, said on Wednesday that transmission levels had peaked and there was now “light at the end of the tunnel”, which may allow for partial lockdowns imposed on several areas and including the city of Zaragoza to be lifted soon.
According to the region’s health department, 560 coronavirus patients are currently in hospital, with 53 in intensive care representing close to one-third of capacity. Additionally, around 50 of Aragon’s 386 care homes for the elderly have been affected in the post-lockdown spate of outbreaks, leading to questions as to how the virus could have been allowed to enter such institutions where more than 80 per cent of the region’s 980 registered deaths from Covid-19 have taken place.
“There need to be more workers and PPEs. It’s a chronic problem and this is a competence of the regional government,” said Angélica Mazo, leader of the UGT trade union’s social services department in Aragon, criticising the lack of inspections by the authorities.
In Madrid, the 12 de Octubre hospital, the largest in the populous south of the city, has begun cancelling non-urgent operations in another sign that the caseload is rising beyond manageable levels.
The region of Galicia announced that it was banning smoking in the street, as well as in busy terrace bars where the minimum social distance cannot be maintained.
On Tuesday, Spain’s health ministry added 3,632 positives to the running total of more than 326,000 infections since the Covid-19 pandemic reached the country, compared to 125 cases the first day after lockdown on June 22.
“As long as cases are rising because we haven’t got the R rate under one, we have to think that a second wave is on the way. We don’t have much time to react. It’s vital that we enter September with good numbers in order to face up to all the changes we will need to make in our routines,” said Ildefonso Hernández, a professor in public health from Miguel Hernández University in Alicante.