By Alyssa McMurtry
OVIEDO, Spain (AA) - Spain's epidemiological situation continued to improve Friday as the Health Ministry registered a significant drop in hospitalized novel coronavirus patients, as well as infections.
There are now 17,963 active patients being treated for COVID-19 in Spanish hospitals -- down nearly 1,000 from Thursday and by nearly 20% from last week when the number of patients hit a peak of above 21,000.
Intensive care units still remain dangerously full, with 31% of all available beds, including makeshift ICUs, still dedicated to the pandemic.
Most patients leaving Spain's hospitals have been sent home, while others did not survive. The Health Ministry reported 328 more COVID-19 deaths, bringing Spain's official death toll to 42,619.
More than 1,850 more deaths were registered over the past week.
Meanwhile, infections continued their downward trend, with just over 15,000 new cases registered Friday, down more than 1,000 from Thursday.
The government of Madrid announced that it would close its borders to unnecessary travel for ten days starting Dec. 4. This will coincide with a long weekend and is being enforced, in part, to reduce contagions before the Christmas holidays.
Many other Spanish regions are expected to follow suit.
On Friday, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told the nation in a press conference that "a very substantial part of the Spanish population will be vaccinated with all guarantees in the first half of 2021."
He said Spain would be the first European country, alongside Germany, to have a full vaccination plan.
The government is expected to reveal all the details of the plan on Tuesday.