SPAIN has called in the army to help deal with a resurgence of the coronavirus – as the country recorded 81,000 infections in just two weeks.
It comes as Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez warned the pandemic could “take control of our lives” again should the surge in cases continue into the Autumn.
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In a televised address to the nation yesterday, Mr Sánchez said that 2,000 military personnel would be deployed to hard-hit regions to help carry out contract tracing measures.
Spain, initially one of Europe’s worst-hit regions at the beginning of the pandemic, is seeing a fresh outbreak of cases after ending a strict three month lockdown on June 21.
In a stark warning to the public, Mr Sánchez said: “We cannot allow the pandemic to take control of our lives again…we must take control, break this second curve”.
It comes as the country recorded 7,117 further positive cases on Tuesday, bringing the total number of cases in the past 14 days to 81,243.
It is hoped that the army will help support contact tracing measures in Spain’s badly hit regions, amidst ongoing criticism of the programme from the central government.
Officials at the Health Ministry have said that more than 60% of the new infections happen in social gatherings, including within families, making a robust tracing programme a necessity to track the spread of the virus in the community.
Spain’s 19 regional governments are responsible for public health policy within their areas, but need to request permission to declare a localised state of emergency from the central government.
Mr Sánchez has urged regional governments to request emergency powers to deal with the escalating crisis, and pledged his support should they need to impose a local lockdown or other preventative measures.
Some regions of Spain, like Catalonia in the northeast and Murcia in the southeast, have extended bans on social gatherings of more than 10 and six people respectively to curb the spread of infection.
But the country’s highly decentralised system has also led to confusion – as regional authorities struggle to implement new containment measures.
In the Lleida region of Catalonia, a judge ruled against the implementation of a local lockdown last month – prompting the region’s leader Quim Torra to slam the “bureaucratic obstacles” in the way of rolling out public health policy.
Pablo Casado, the head of the conservative Popular Party which leads the opposition to Sanchez’ government, also said yesterday of the confusion: “Spain has no one at the helm.
“There is a total absence of leadership”.
Madrid, currently the country’s worst-hit region, has just 550 dedicated contact tracing staff despite recording 25,000 cases in the past fortnight.
It prompted the city to recommend citizens only to leave the house for necessities.
Meanwhile, Mr Sánchez has said that the country’s schools will open “as normally” next month despite the rise in cases, adding there there was “no alternative”.
However, the Harvard Global Health Institute has warned against reopening schools until regional infection rates fall below 25 cases per 100,000 a week – with just one Spanish region currently meeting that threshold.
Spain’s national average now stands at 90 cases per 100,000 people in the last week, while Madrid’s has risen to 213.