Infections and hospitalizations in the Basque Country are beginning to soar while much of Spain manages to keep a fourth coronavirus wave at bay.
The northern region of Spain reported 937 new infections on Wednesday — a 20% increase from the previous day.
The seven-day infection rate is 2.2 times higher than the national average and is accelerating quickly while the national average remains stable.
Hospitals in San Sebastian and surrounding areas are particularly hard-hit and officials are resorting to opening temporary COVID-19 wards and transferring patients as intensive care units fill up rapidly.
“It’s like a battleground here,” an unnamed doctor told the El Diaro newspaper. “This wave is worse than the first.”
The Health Secretary of the Basque Country, Gotzone Sagardui, attributes the surge to the new variants of the virus, particularly the one first found in the UK, which is more infectious and potentially more deadly.
“More and more cases are needing more intense medical treatment,” he said at a press conference.
The Basque Country also shares a border with France which has seen one of Europe’s most explosive outbreaks in recent weeks.
The region’s surge comes despite the vast majority of those older than 80 having been vaccinated. Residents aged 60-70 are making up the majority of patients in intensive care units, although some as young as 20 are receiving treatment.
In total, 767 patients are hospitalized for the virus in the region, compared to 440 one month ago.
The surge in the Basque Country comes hardly two weeks before the Spanish government is set to lift a state of emergency. Without it, curfews will disappear as will many other mobility restrictions.
The Basque government has urged the central government to prolong the restrictions, but so far, to no avail.
Elsewhere in Spain, Madrid, Navarra and the country’s African enclaves have similarly high levels of contagion.