COVID-19 cases surge again, but ‘no second wave’

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OVIEDO, Spain

Despite Spain’s Health Ministry reported another surge in COVID-19 cases, with 1,828 new infections confirmed on Tuesday, the country’s health minister denied a second wave.

“What we have are outbreaks […] particularly in the regions of Catalonia and Aragon,” Salvador Illa said at a news conference.

Last week, María José Sierra, Spain’s acting chief epidemiologist, told media that Spain could be at the beginning of a second wave.

The weekly infection rate has been consistently increasing since the lockdown was lifted in late June. The number of confirmed contagions in the last seven days now sits at 13,116.

In total, more than 280,600 people have been infected in the country, with 28,436 deaths, according to the Health Ministry.

In recent weeks, several Spanish regions have announced new restrictions — including early closure of bars and nightclubs, making use of masks mandatory and reducing maximum capacity in public spaces. Millions of residents in the worst-affected regions have also been asked to stay home.

“The measures that the various regions are taking are sufficient,” said Illa.

Employment data

For now, hospitals are avoiding saturation in the vast majority of the country, but the situation in Aragon is becoming increasingly critical. Over the last week, 136 new COVID-19 patients have been hospitalized in the region with a population of 1.3 million people, and infections continue to climb.

Meanwhile, Spain’s second-quarter employment data was published by the National Statistics Institute on Tuesday, showing the unemployment rate rose only slightly to 15.3%. In the last quarter of 2019, it was at 13.8%.

However, millions of Spaniards are now benefiting from a temporary layoff mechanism, which allows them to hold their jobs despite not working. Millions more are not considered unemployed but have stopped working.

“The unemployment rate becomes 20% if we adjust for the drop of the active working population and 30% if we adjust for temporary layoffs,” Angel Talavera, the head of European Economics at Oxford Economics, said on Twitter.

In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Spain’s unemployment rate rose to nearly 27%.

Recent news reports of travel restrictions from countries like the UK, Germany, Norway, Holland, and Belgium continue to shake Spain’s economy, which relies on tourism for 12% of GDP.

Illa said he expects Spain will have access to a vaccine by mid-2021, adding the country will have to learn to live with the disease until then.



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