By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) - Coronavirus infections continued to skyrocket in Spain, with the Health Ministry reporting a staggering 72,912 new cases Thursday.
This was the third consecutive day that the country broke its pandemic record for daily cases after registering around 49,800 infections on Tuesday and 60,000 on Wednesday
As the more contagious omicron variant becomes dominant, daily cases have surged by more than 250% since last Thursday, when there were fewer than 29,000 daily cases.
The record-breaking contagion coincides with one of the most social times of the year -- the Christmas season.
Confronted with this explosive scene, Spain's central government has mandated outdoor masking in cities or crowded spaces from Friday.
On Thursday, a court greenlighted the Catalan government's request to take on the strictest COVID-19 measures in Spain so far this wave -- an overnight curfew and gathering cap of 10 people.
The Murcia and Cantabria regions also announced on Thursday they would be limiting nighttime activity.
Most other parts of Spain are relying on mask wearing, vaccinations, and vaccine passports to contain the pandemic.
Despite Spain being a European leader in vaccinations, with 90% of people older than 12 fully inoculated and 45% of those older than 40 with a booster, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise.
On Thursday, the country reported 82 COVID-19 deaths, up from 50 on Wednesday.
Hospitalizations are also growing steadily, with 16.27% of intensive care units now occupied. That figure is much lower than during previous waves, but the number of cases is now much higher.
Primary care has been the hardest hit so far, as family doctors are unable to cope with the surge of COVID patients, contact tracing, testing, and overwhelmed infrastructure.
On Wednesday night, a group of angry people who waited for hours at their primary care center in the city of Caceres was filmed harassing and insulting doctors unable to attend to them.
Experts expect the situation to continue worsening throughout the holiday season.