MADRID (Reuters) -Spain’s two-week COVID-19 contagion rate kept rising on Monday, reaching 368 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, officials said, more than tripling in two weeks as infections have soared especially among young people.
Health emergency chief Fernando Simon said the pace of increase had reduced in recent days as officials believe the latest wave is nearing its peak. He praised new restrictions announced in the hard-hit Mediterranean regions of Catalonia and Valencia.
“We are still in a situation where we have to reduce risks,” he told a media briefing, deeming “really dramatic” the situation in Catalonia, which last week had Spain’s highest incidence with 725 cases per 100,000 inhabitants.
Simon said the infection hike in Catalonia could be attributed to the increasing arrival of domestic and foreign tourists amid the spread of the more contagious Delta variant.
The lower vaccination rate among youngsters and the impact of outbreaks related to school graduation trips are also playing a role across Spain, he added.
The Catalan regional government announced on Monday that all activities, including bars, would have to shut at 12:30 a.m., social gatherings would be capped at ten people, while eating or drinking in public areas would be banned.
The measures are pending court approval.
Separately, a court authorised more than 30 towns in the neighbouring Valencia region to impose night curfews to counter a soaring COVID-19 infection rate.
The regional government had asked its regional court to authorise a 1 a.m. to 6 a.m. curfew on towns with more than 5,000 inhabitants considered high-risk, including its capital, Valencia, and local tourism hotspot Benicassim.
Social gatherings of more than 10 people will be banned.
Regional authorities responsible for the COVID-19 response need court authorisation or a government decree for strict measures including lockdowns, travel bans and curfews.
Nationwide, cases began to surge back from the middle of June after a long decline, propelled by the Delta variant and more socialising among younger groups.
“In Spain, we are becoming experts in premature easing of restrictions. When we decided to lift restrictions in this fourth wave there was not enough immunity among citizens to remove many of the restrictions,” Dr. Rafael Bengoa, co-founder of Bilbao’s Institute for Health and Strategy, told Reuters.
He said the authorities had rushed to boost tourism numbers rather than base their decisions on epidemiological data.
(Reporting by Emma Pinedo and Joan FausEditing by Andrei Khalip, Nick Macfie, Peter Graff)