Spain’s Basque region on Tuesday announced new restrictions on gatherings to control its latest coronavirus wave, after months in which Spain stood out as a country that had largely reined in the pandemic, in particular thanks to a high vaccination rate.
The virus has spread unevenly in Spain in recent weeks, and the infection rates in the Basque region and neighboring Navarra are now more than twice the national average. Lawmakers in the worst-hit regions are leading a nationwide debate over whether Spain should reintroduce more restrictions to prevent a serious Covid-19 resurgence this winter.
The Basque regional government said that all areas in which the infection rate exceeds 150 cases per 100,000 inhabitants should suspend mass events and other gatherings, in particular those where food and drinks were served and where social distancing could not be guaranteed. The region’s 14-day average infection rate climbed just above 180 per 100,000 inhabitants this weekend, compared with a nationwide rate on Monday of 82 cases per 100,000 inhabitants, according to Spain’s health ministry.
The regional government said it would also ask the Basque judiciary to mandate proof of Covid-19 vaccination for people seeking to enter restaurants and nightclubs.
“We are not doing well,” Gotzone Sagardui, the regional health minister, told a news conference, adding that the virus was again spreading “with a worrying speed of growth.”
Spain’s health regulators lowered the country’s status to “low risk” in October after a plunge in the nationwide infection rate from a summer peak of over 700 cases per 100,000 inhabitants in late July. That improvement was largely attributed to a successful vaccination campaign, and 79 percent of the population is now fully vaccinated.
Booster shots are now being given to people who are over 70 or living in nursing homes, and Spain’s government is expected to soon offer vaccinations to children under 12.
At the same time, however, the country’s pandemic response has recently involved a patchwork of restrictions put in place by regional governments, which are responsible for health care.
Iñigo Urkullu, the Basque region’s leader, has led a push to require vaccination in certain business sectors — as has happened sweepingly in Italy and some other countries — and has urged Spain’s central government to set nationwide rules.
Ximo Puig, the leader of the eastern region of Valencia, also said recently that his government was considering whether to require vaccination passes for entry into some venues.