Spain raises the bar for what constitutes a high risk of Covid

A week after the proposal of change The Covid traffic light system in Spain has been rejected by some regions, the Spanish Public Health Commission nevertheless decided to approve the changes.

According to Spain’s Minister of Health, Carolina Darias, the new scale is adapted to the current pandemic situation, as the old traffic light system was introduced when only 4 percent of the eligible population was vaccinated instead of 90 percent current, and “Covid hospitalizations, intensive care admissions and deaths have been drastically reduced.”

Their new traffic light system will raise the threshold for the low-risk category from 50 infections per 100,000 people in 14 days to 100 cases per 100,000 people.

For infection rates below 50 per 100,000, the risk of infection would be classified as “under control”.

The updated system would also classify regions with 100 to 300 infections per 100,000 population as being at medium risk rather than the previous threshold of 50 to 100.

This in turn would mean that the high-risk bar would be twice as high as it has been so far: 300 to 500 Covid infections every fortnight for 100,000 people.

Any place with an infection rate over 500 will be classified as extreme risk.

Above all, when cities or autonomous communities fall into these risk categories, it is when local authorities have the justification for imposing lighter or stricter Covid restrictions, if they gain the support of local courts.

But Spain’s health ministry and the Public Health Commission have yet to confirm what, if any, the appropriate restrictions should be for each new risk category.

Spain’s national and regional governments disagree on how to move forward with Covid measures before Christmas as new infections accelerate and it begins to impact hospitalizations.

Changes to Spain’s Covid-risk traffic light system were rejected just a week ago by regional health officials who crossed them out as unnecessary and likely to give the public a false sense of security.

Many regions have requested instead the Covid health passport be used in the hotel sector to limit infections and hospitalizations among the 4 million unvaccinated in Spain, and they want the national government to give them the power not to have to seek authorization from the high courts.

But the Ministry of Health headed by Carolina Darias has ruled out the possibility of a nationwide implementation of the Covid health pass.

“The Supreme Court has laid the groundwork and this is the way forward,” Darias said of Covid health passes violating fundamental rights.

Instead, the national government proposed that bars and restaurants close at 11 p.m. and nightclubs at 1 a.m. in areas where Covid cases increase over Christmas.

The main focus of the national government is “vaccinations and masks” rather than further restrictions according to government spokeswoman Isabel Rodríguez, acknowledging that there is “concern” among regions for the absence of a common framework.

It looks like Spain is heading into a Christmas season where the rules could end up being different in its 17 regions.

As of November 24, Spain’s fortnightly infection rate stood at 139 cases per 100,000 people, COVID-related hospitalizations account for 2% of total hospitalizations and intensive care 5%.