By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) – The omicron variant is behind as much as 60% of new coronavirus infections in Madrid, the region’s health minister said on Friday.
“For now, we are seeing that the variant is much more contagious than delta … but it seems like cases are milder considering that 80% of our population is vaccinated,” Enrique Ruiz Escudero said at a conference hosted by the newspaper Diario Sur.
The rapid surge of the variant coincides with a general spike in infections in Spain’s capital region. On Friday, Madrid’s infection rate jumped by nearly 20% to 480 cases per 100,000, from 199 just a week ago.
“We’re going to live through some complicated weeks because of the new variant,” said Madrid Premier Isabel Ayuso.
“The increase in contagions will have a significant impact on primary care.”
While Ayuso said she is reinforcing primary care with more doctors, she has no plans to add any new restrictions for the holidays. Testing, vaccination and calling for caution are the pillars of her strategy.
Other Spanish regions are also adding new curbs to counter the explosion of infections rocking the country.
Catalonia, where authorities say omicron now makes up one-fifth of infections, is changing its confinement strategy.
From Monday, anyone who is in close contact with someone who tests positive for the virus will have to go into isolation for 10 days, whether they are vaccinated or not.
On Friday, a court in Andalusia also gave the green light for the region to start requiring vaccination or negative test certificates for entry into bars, restaurants and other leisure facilities.
Across Spain, cases have been skyrocketing over recent weeks, though hospitalizations and deaths are lower than in previous waves, thanks to vaccines.
Currently, around 5% of all Spain’s hospital beds are being used by COVID-19 patients and 14% of all intensive care units.
When the infection rate hit similar highs in January, COVID-19 patients were using 14% of all Spain’s hospital beds and 27% of all intensive care units.
On Thursday, the Spanish Health Ministry reported 48 deaths, bringing its official death toll to 88,667.