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Shark sightings and minor attacks on the rise as bathers return to Spanish beaches

The lockdown and Storm Gloria have facilitated the return of marine species to seawaters which were previously dominated by human activities.

Shark sightings and minor attacks on the rise as bathers return to Spanish beaches
Photos: Wikimedia

Just days after Spain allowed its 46 million inhabitants to head to the country’s beaches for the first time in more than two months, a number of shark encounters have showcased how quickly the animal kingdom can regain territory. 

There have been more than 15 sightings of basking sharks (the second largest shark in the world) along Spain’s Mediterranean coast so far this spring.

Spain’s Civil Guard captured images of one of these enormous creatures, which measure up to eight metres in length but are not considered a threat to humans.

On the Canary island of Tenerife, another marine species – the angel shark or monkfish (see below)– has been swimming in shallow waters where up until recently only beachgoers would be found.

There have been four attacks in just three days, with experts warning the public they shouldn’t interact with the creatures as they bite when they feel threatened.

“The drop in maritime traffic and fishing activities as a result of the confinement measures have a lot to do with the increase in shark sightings, ” Claudio Barría, a researcher at the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC) in Barcelona, told Telecinco.

“Some studies indicate that Storm Gloria (a storm which brought gail-force winds and heavy rainfall to Spain in January) could have increased the amount of plankton in the Mediterranean, attracting more sharks that feed off it”. 

 

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COVID-19

Covid deaths in Sweden ‘set to rise in coming weeks’

The Public Health Agency of Sweden has warned that the number of weekly Covid deaths is set to rise, after the number of people testing positive for the virus rose for the sixth week running.

Covid deaths in Sweden 'set to rise in coming weeks'

According to the agency, an average of 27 people have died with or from the virus a week over the past three weeks. 

“According to our analyses, the number who died in week 27 (July 4th-July 11th), is more than died in week 26 and we expect this to continue to grow,” the agency wrote in a report issued on Thursday. 

In the week ending July 17th (week 28), 4,700 new cases of Covid-19 were registered, a 22 percent rise on the previous week. 

“We are seeing rising infection levels of Covid-19 which means that there will be more people admitted to hospital, and even more who die with Covid-19,”  said Anneli Carlander, a unit chief at the agency. “The levels we are seeing now are higher than they were last summer, but we haven’t reached the same level we saw last winter when omicron was spreading for the first time.” 

While 27 deaths a week with for from Covid-19 is a rise on the low levels seen this spring, it is well below the peak death rate Sweden saw in April 2020, when more than 100 people were dying a day. 

The number of Covid deaths recorded each week this summer. Source. Public Health Agency of Sweden
A graph of Covid deaths per day since the start of the pandemic shows that the current death rate, while alarming, remains low. Photo: Public Health Agency of Sweden

Carlander said that cases were rising among those in sheltered accommodation for the elderly, and also elderly people given support in their own homes, groups which are recommended to get tested for the virus if they display symptoms. The infection rate among those given support in their homes has risen 40 percent on last week. 

This week there were also 12 new patients admitted to intensive care units with Covid-19 in Sweden’s hospitals.  

The increase has come due to the new BA.5 variant of omicron, which is better able to infect people who have been vaccinated or already fallen ill with Covid-19. Vaccination or a past infection does, however, give protection against serious illness and death. 

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