Spain’s Basque Country restricts gatherings when cases increase


Spain’s Basque Country announced new restrictions on gatherings to control its latest wave of coronavirus on Tuesday after Spain emerged for months as a country that largely contained the pandemic, thanks in particular to a high vaccination rate.

In Spain, the virus has spread unevenly in recent weeks, and the infection rates in the Basque Country and neighboring Navarre are now more than twice as high as the national average. Legislators in the hardest hit regions are having a nationwide debate on whether Spain should introduce further restrictions to prevent a serious Covid-19 resurgence this winter.

The Basque regional government said all areas where the infection rate exceeds 150 cases per 100,000 population should suspend mass events and other gatherings, especially those where food and drink are served and where social distancing cannot be guaranteed. The region’s average infection rate over 14 days rose by just over 180 per 100,000 residents this weekend, compared to a nationwide rate of 82 cases per 100,000 residents on Monday, according to the Spanish Ministry of Health.

The regional government said it will also ask the Basque judiciary to require proof of Covid-19 vaccination for people trying to enter restaurants and nightclubs.

“We’re not doing well,” said regional health minister Gotzone Sagardui at a press conference, adding that the virus is spreading again “at a worrying rate of growth.”

Spain’s health authorities lowered the country’s status to “low risk” in October after the nationwide infection rate plummeted from a summer high of over 700 cases per 100,000 residents in late July. This improvement was largely attributed to a successful vaccination campaign, and 79 percent of the population are now fully vaccinated.

People over 70 years old or living in nursing homes are now receiving booster vaccinations and the Spanish government is expected to offer vaccinations for children under 12 years old soon.

At the same time, however, the country’s pandemic response has recently included a patchwork of restrictions put in place by regional health care governments.

Iñigo Urkullu, the leader of the Basque region, has made vaccinations mandatory in certain sectors of the economy – as has been widespread in Italy and some other countries – and called on the Spanish central government to establish national rules.

Ximo Puig, the leader of the Eastern Region of Valencia, also recently said his government was considering asking for vaccination cards to enter some places.

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