11,434 cases in 24 hours: Omicron fuels new Covid-19 daily record in Catalonia
Authorities bring back restrictions and urge booster take-up as sixth wave escalates
11,434 new cases of Covid-19 have been detected in Catalonia in the last 24 hours, according to the latest figures released by the health department on Tuesday morning.
It's an all-time high of daily diagnoses – confirmed by PCR or antigen tests – since the pandemic began, topping the previous peaks registered during the fifth (8,880 cases), third (6,981) and second (6,125) waves, in July 2021, January 2021 and November 2020 respectively.
It also marks a dramatic increase in the past week – 6,221 cases were reported last Monday, December 13 – while we only have to go back as far as November 21 to find a three-figure daily case total, 837.
Number of people diagnosed per day
Indicators shoot up
The explosion in the number of cases means that other Covid-19 indicators have also shot up. The IA14 – the number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants in last 14 days – has risen from a recent low of 45.27 on October 21 to 771.38 on Monday, December 20 and doesn't appear to have peaked yet.
The outbreak risk – found by multiplying the average spread of the virus over the past seven days by the cumulative incidence over the past two weeks – has gone from 37 on October 17 to 1,250 on December 20, approaching the level seen during the fifth wave when it peaked at 1,828 on July 9.
The transmission rate has been between 1.40 and 1.73 over the last seven days and it has been above 1, meaning the virus is spreading, since October 19.
Number of cases per 100,000 inhabitants in last 14 days
Outbreak risk (over 100 is high) and transmission rate (over 1 concerns authorities)
Hospitalizations, ICUs and deaths
The explosion in the number of cases is believed to be due in a large part to the spread of the new Omicron variant. The head of the World Health Organization, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on Monday that Omicron was "spreading significantly faster" than the Delta variant.
The severity of Omicron is still unknown so authorities will be keeping a close eye on whether the clear growth in infection currently being observed will translate into more hospitalizations, admissions to intensive care and deaths.
The number of hospitalized patients with Covid-19 in Catalonia is 1,313, as of December 20, with 340 in ICUs. Those figures have grown from 312 hospitalizations on November 5 and 78 in ICUs on November 9.
Despite higher numbers of infections, hospitalizations (2,292) and patients in ICUs (598) at the peak of the fifth wave were not as high as during the third wave (3,038 and 731), due to the effects of the vaccination rollout.
The number of deaths recorded on Monday, December 21 was 68, the highest by far in the sixth wave to date and in fact the highest daily total since 87 deaths were recorded on August 13. Although reporting delays can cause spikes in the figures (there was just one death recorded on Sunday and none on Saturday), there is a clear upward trend over the last three weeks.
Hospitalized and ICU patients (from July 29, 2020)
Number of confirmed and suspected Covid-19 deaths per day
In the face of the worsening pandemic data, health officials continue to encourage those eligible for a booster shot to avail of one.
The director of public health in the Ebre region (southern Catalonia), Joan Nin, said on Tuesday that the high level of immunization in the area, 83.17% of the population, was preventing the complete collapse of the health system.
As of December 20, 2021, 6,201,625 residents have been given the first dose of the vaccine, 78.2% of the total population. Out of those, 5,390,917 have also been administered a second dose (68.1% of the total population). 6,031,939 residents are considered to be fully immunized (75.8%). Catalonia has administered 1,477,875 booster shots to date.
Number of people given first dose, fully immunized, and given booster dose
What happens next?
Catalan authorities announced new measures on Monday evening in an effort to stop the relentless spread of Covid-19.
Gatherings will be limited to 10 people, there will be a curfew from 1am to 6am in municipalities with over 10,000 inhabitants and an incidence rate of over 250, the nightlife sector will be forced to close, and new capacity limits will be put in place: 50% in indoor seating areas of restaurants and 70% in gyms, cultural venues, and stores.
As the 10-person cap on gatherings and the curfew limit individual rights and freedoms, the request to implement them must be approved by the High Court. If given the go-ahead, they will come into effect with the other restrictions on Thursday at midnight and remain in place for at least 15 days.
Catalan president Pere Aragonès acknowledged that the new Covid-19 restrictions are "hard."
But, he told the press on Tuesday, they are still necessary and should be extended to the rest of Spain ahead of the Christmas holidays.
Spanish president Pedro Sánchez will meet with regional leaders, including Aragonès, on Wednesday to address the Omicron-fueled surge in Covid-19 cases.