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Junta warns of ‘extreme risk’ as virus cases rise in Andalucia

Health officials in Andalucia have warned of the rise in cases of Covid-19 in many parts of the region.

Figures released on Tuesday showed 80 new hospitalised cases in the preceding 24 hours, bringing the total number of Covid patients receiving hospital care to 1,473, of whom 297 are in intensive care units.

While the figures are still some way off spikes earlier this year at the worst moments of the so-called third wave of infection in Andalucia – on February 2, for example, there were 4,980 people hospitalised in the region – they have raised deep concern.

Speaking on Canal Sur radio, Jesus Aguirre, the man responsible for health at the Junta de Andalucia, said the region was at “extreme risk” given the overall incidence of Covid cases per 100,000 inhabitants had now risen to 250.

“We don’t yet know if this is the fourth wave or a spike that will drop sharply thanks to the vaccination programme,” he said.

He was speaking just weeks before Spain is set to step down on May 9 from the state of alarm that has been in place since the pandemic started early last year.

Mr Aguirre said it would be “reckless” to lift that state of alarm against the backdrop of rising infections in many parts of Spain.

He urged the central government in Madrid to give regional authorities the tools to continue with restrictions if necessary.

In the Campo de Gibraltar, data released by the Junta indicated 87 new cases registered over the weekend.

Mr Aguirre, who has in the past been critical of Gibraltar’s decision to ease restrictions thanks to its vaccination rollout, said the Rock showed that vaccines work.

“The vaccine bonanza is evident there, especially for the sceptics,” he said.

“There are no admissions in hospital and they have moved to normality, not absolute but relative, which is what we want ahead of summer.”

That sentiment was reinforced on Tuesday by Juanma Moreno, the Junta president, who bemoaned the slow progress of vaccination in the region, where about two million people have received their vaccines and 550,000 are immune after infection, representing around 6.7% of the population in total.

Mr Moreno admitted a degree of “envy” when looking at Gibraltar, adding that Spain and the EU’s handling of vaccine procurement had “evidently failed”.

He said it would be “catastrophic” in social and economic terms for Andalucia to lose another summer tourism season, urging the government in Madrid to reach agreement for travel corridors with the UK.

Although infections are on the increase in many parts of Andalucia, most of the municipalities of the Campo remain well below the 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants that would normally trigger tougher restrictions including on travel between municipalities.

The incidence in La Linea, for example, stood at 73.9 per 100,000, while Algeciras recorded 96.7 per 100,000 and San Roque 69.7 per 100,000.

The highest incidence was in Castellar de la Frontera, which recorded 163.6 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, although officials had not tightened restrictions as result.

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