Spanish PM Sánchez calls for new measures amid ‘real risk’ of rising Covid cases

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez warned the population of a "real risk" of a new wave of infections as a result of the more contagious Omicron coronavirus variant and called for preventative measures to be stepped up.

Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez
Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said the rise of Covid-19 infections represented "a clear and real warning" to Spanish people's health. Kenzo Tribouillard / AFP / POOL

In a six-minute televised address on Sunday morning, Sánchez said the presidents of all of Spain’s regions would attend an emergency meeting online on Wednesday afternoon “to evaluate new measures that can be put in place over the next few weeks”.

Despite the incidence rate of the virus variant still being below that of other neighbouring countries, he said the rise of infections still represented “a clear and real warning to the health of our fellow Spaniards and, as such, must compel us to intensify our actions”.

As of Friday, the incidence rate stood at 511 cases per 100,000 inhabitants for the last 14-day period, according to the Spanish health ministry.

However, Sánchez said the situation looked much better than a year earlier: “It’s true that the characteristics of this new wave are different. It’s worth noting that although the infection numbers are higher, our hospitalisation and ICU admission figures are lower than last year. The first conclusion to be drawn is that vaccines work,” he said, urging people to continue to get vaccinated.

More than 80 percent of over-60s in Spain have received the booster jab to date, while almost 90 percent of Spaniards are fully vaccinated, a far higher level of coverage than that seen in most other EU countries.

In Germany, for example, just 70.2 percent of the total population were fully vaccinated as of December 17th while 30.3 percent had had a booster, according to the country’s Robert Koch Institute.

Spain currently has 6,667 patients in hospital with Covid-19 or around 5.3 percent of the total capacity, while Covid-19 patients in intensive care make up 14 percent of the available beds, according to El Pais.

This time last year, when the vaccination programme was still to begin, the incidence rate was just 207, but there were 11,366 patients in hospital with Covid-19 – occupying 9.2 percent of available beds.

And in intensive care, 20.4 percent of the total capacity was taken up by Covid-19 patients this time last year.

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‘There’ll be translators’: Spain’s opposition leader brushes off need to speak English

Opposition leader Alberto Núñez Feijóo, whom polls suggest could be Spain's next prime minister, admitted Thursday he didn't speak English but brushed it off saying there were always "translators".

'There'll be translators': Spain's opposition leader brushes off need to speak English

“My problem is English… I have to start studying it,” he told Telecinco television in his first interview since his right-wing Popular Party (PP) scored a major victory in Sunday’s local and regional elections.

“I already had an English teacher set up to start learning on Monday, but now it turns out I’ve been called to a general election. Well, no problem,” Feijóo said.

“International summits normally have translators and what’s most important is that I know what I want to say.”

READ ALSO – PROFILE: Who is Alberto Núñez Feijóo and could he be Spain’s next PM?

On Monday May 29th, Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez – whose ruling Socialists suffered a drubbing in Sunday’s polls – caught the country off guard by calling snap elections on July 23rd.

Spain takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union on July 1st.

During the regional election campaign, Feijóo went viral after he was caught on camera mispronouncing US rock legend Bruce Springsteen’s name, calling him “Bruce Sprinter” during a party rally.

READ ALSO: Who won where in Spain’s regional elections?

Spain has had a long history of prime ministers who do not speak English. One was the former PP prime minister Mariano Rajoy who, when asked a question in English by the BBC at a press conference in 2017, dismissed it with a wave.

“Hombre, no,” he retorted, or “Oh man, no”, despite years of private English classes dating back to 2009 when he was opposition leader.

Sánchez is Spain’s first prime minister to be fluent in English.